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Arizona presidential preference election vs. primary: What’s the difference?

Voters come and go near a polling station at sunrise in Arizona's presidential primary election, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — If you somehow missed it, there’s been much ado about long lines to vote in Arizona’s presidential preference election.

Voters waited for hours on Tuesday after county officials decided to open 60 polling places instead of the typical 200.

An official originally placed part of the blame on voters “for getting in line,” though Maricopa County Recorded Helen Purcell later walked back her comments and apologized.

Those voters were waiting to cast their vote for one person on one side of the political aisle. While Tuesday’s election has been referred to as a “primary,” a “presidential primary” and the proper “presidential preference election,” many were confused as to whether the terms were interchangeable, if at all.

The short explanation is: They’re not. Tuesday was different from a primary. Most headlines called it a primary because it’s way shorter than writing “presidential preference election” every 10 minutes.

Trust us on this one.

The long explanation is a little more complex.

On Tuesday, voters who were registered as Democrats, Republicans or members of the Green Party were allowed to vote for the presidential candidate they would prefer to elect (get the fancy name now?) in November’s general election.

The choices were simple: Republican voters could choose between Donald Trump (who won), Ted Cruz, John Kasich, a few other minor candidates or those who have left the race since registering to be on the ballot and some local candidates.

Democrats and Green Party members could chose between Hillary Clinton (who also won), Bernie Sanders and several minor candidates or others who have already announced they no longer seek the White House.

Independents were not allowed to vote, which is one of the main differences between Tuesday and a primary.

So why host two elections before voters pick a new president in November? What’s the purpose?

Tuesday awarded a certain amount of delegates to some of the candidates — Trump won all of Arizona’s 58 Republican delegates while Clinton and Sanders will divvy up the 85 Democratic delegates based on the number of votes they got. These delegates will eventually play a part in selecting each party’s nominee at summer conventions.

Arizona voters will next go to the polls Aug. 30, which is the state’s primary election.

At this point, all voters — independents included — will decide which candidates will run against each other for numerous offices, such as Congress and the state Legislature, among others.

Once this is decided, those candidates will be placed on the ballot for the general election, set for Nov. 8.

Still confused? This infographic boils it all down.

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