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From the doc

! MASTER and BACKUP state are determined by the priority 
! even if you specify MASTER as the state, the state will 
! be voted on by priority (so if your state is MASTER but your 
! priority is lower than the router with BACKUP, you will lose 
! the MASTER state) 

So why defining a state instead of just using priority?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

It's just to permit faster start up. If you have one node start up in master mode and the other nodes start up in backup, then things will be working the way you want immediately. The alternative would either be to have both nodes start up in master mode or both nodes start up in backup mode, in which case things wouldn't work right until the nodes had established that they were the only operational nodes.

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