Maryland voters on Tuesday will begin choosing the 89 delegates who will go to the two national party conventions this summer -- 30 on the Republican side and 59 for the Democrats.
Although Democratic voters this year face a much simpler ballot than in the 1976 primary, it will still be a more complex process than that of the Republicans.
Instead of voting for individual delegates, the Democrats will cast their ballots only for the presidential nominee they prefer: Jimmy Carter or Edward Kennedy. The actual selection of Democratic delegates will be a two-step process, beginning with June 7 caucuses in each of the state's eight congressional districts -- a process designed to open up the business of delegate selection to more people, particularly women and members of ethnic minorities.
Forty-one of the delegates are divided among the congressional districts in proportion to the Democratic turnout in each district in the 1976 general elections.
This division leaves the 7th and 8th districts, in Baltimore City and Montgomery County, with six delegates each. The conservative 1st district, in southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, will have four delegates. Districts in the rest of the state have been apportioned five delegates each.
Within each district, delegates will be apportioned on the basis of the votes each candidate won in that area. The caucuses must also divide delegate slots equally among men and women.
The remaining 18 delegates will be picked at a meeting of the state Democratic Central Committee after the district caucuses are held; five of these slots are reserved for elected officials and party officers and the remaining 13 delegates will be chosen by the central committee from candidates for these at-large seats.
The Republican delegate selection process is considerably quicker than the Democratic version. Voters in each of the eight congressional districts will elect three delegates to go to the national GOP convention in Detroit.
For the first two convention ballots, these delegates will be bound to support the presidential candidate who carried their congressional district, no matter whether or not they are the designated delegates of that candidate. Six more at-large delegates will be chosen by members of the state's Republican Central Committee.
For two convention ballots, these delegates must support the statewide primary victory.