ORONO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- With the caucus and primary season underway, we had a discussion in our newsroom about the differences between the two, and realized even some of our staff didn't realize some of the nuances.
That's why we went to an expert to explain how each system works.
Primaries and caucuses are set up in different ways in each state, but have general distinctions, according to University of Maine Political Science Professor Mark Brewer.
Brewer said primaries are similar to general elections. Voters cast secret ballots at polling places, and can come and go as they please.
Caucuses, however, are longer time committments.
Voters have to stay throughout the duration of caucus, whether it lasts 15 minutes or several hours.
The votes are in person, face-to-face, and often involve discussion and debate to persuade voters to change their positions.
Brewer said caucuses yield lower voter turnout because of the time committment, but cater to a more grassroots campaign style.
He said that could be the reason Rick Santorum is seeing a last-minute surge in Iowa.
Brewer said primaries cater to the larger, more media-intensive ad campaign style, but said social media is starting to blur the lines between the two campaign styles.
Some politicians have a preference.
"I think a primary approach is much fairer," said Senator Susan Collins.
"Sometimes people are working all day...and cannot take the time to come to a caucus and vote," she said.
Maine has held both caucuses and primaries, and will be holding a Republican Caucus for the 2012 cycle this February.