Open Primaries

NOTE:  

Added Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I'm An Independent - Can I Vote in Super Tuesday's Republican Primary?

Alaska - Open Primary: Parties select who may vote in their primaries. To vote in the GOP primary, a voter must be registered as a Republican 30 days before Election Day.

Georgia - Open: No party affiliation required at registration. However, on Election Day, voters must declare an oath of intent to affiliate with the particular party for whom they are voting on Election Day.

Idaho - Closed: Until 2011, all Idaho primaries were open. Independents intervened in a lawsuit brought by a faction of the Republican Party seeking to close their primaries. However, the GOP obtained a declaratory judgment that mandating open primaries violated freedom of association and was thus unconstitutional in Idaho Republican Party v. Ysura. Subsequently, the legislature passed a bill allowing parties to choose which type of primary they use. Democrats have chosen a semi-closed primary; unaffiliated voters may register a party at the polls on election day, but they are bound to that party affiliation at the next election.

Massachusetts - Semi-Closed: Affiliated voters must vote in the primary of their party; however, unaffiliated voters may vote in either primary.

North Dakota - Closed: The only state without voter registration. To vote in the Republican caucus you must have affiliated with the Republican Party in the last general election or intend to do so in the next election.

Ohio - Closed: Voters' right to vote in the primary may be challenged on the basis that they are not affiliated with the party for whom they are voting in the primary.

Oklahoma - Closed: Only voters affiliated with a particular party may vote in its primary.

Tennessee - Open: No party affiliation required at registration. 

Vermont - Open: No registration by party. For presidential primary, voters must declare which ballots they want.

Virginia - Open: No party affiliation required at registration.

source: FairVote






This page is being updated over the summer of 2011, keep checking back!

UPDATED 7/26/11

ARIZONA
YES! Independents can vote in state primaries, but you have to pick a party.
  • More voters walking away from Democrat and Republican parties (AZ Central/Laurie Roberts' Columns & Blog) Meanwhile, with each set of new registration numbers, more and more Arizona voters are walking away from the two-party system. Yet the system remains, just as it has since statehood. When are we going to get around to dropping this antiquated system and going to a general and a runoff, where everybody votes on all the candidates regardless of party designation?
  • From Arizona Star 2010: Arizona has an open primary, which voters approved in 1998. Arizona voters who do not designate a party, independents or those affiliated with a party not having a primary election can - and should - select a ballot from a major political party in primary elections.The number of independents - almost one-third of Arizona's 3.1 million registered voters - is political muscle that should be flexed. Independents can affect the outcome of primaries and, ultimately, government's political temper. More than 940,000 Arizonans are registered independents or "no party designated." Democrats are at about 1 million and about 1.1 million are registered Republican.
  • From Wikipedia: For Presidential candidate delegate assignment, however, Arizona conducts a Presidential Preference Election (PPE), distinguishing the contest from the state's primary election laws. Arizona's PPE is closed to those not registered with a state-recognized party.

WEST VIRGINIA
From Wikipedia: In West Virginia, where state law allows parties to determine whether primaries are open to independents, Republican primaries are open to independents, while Democratic primaries were closed. However, as of April 1, 2007, West Virginia's Democratic Party opened its voting to allow "individuals who are not affiliated with any existing recognized party to participate in the election process".




Recommended Resources:

2010: I'm an Independent Voter - Can I Vote in the Primary in [fill in your state]  ?? [SEE BELOW]


Harry Kresky

and the "Two-Party" System in the United States




by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON
TheGreenPapers.com 

  • Activist site with petition to President Obama calling for his support of open primaries on behalf of independent voters OpenPrimaries.org -- you can go here to sign the petition.
  • Wikipedia Entry for Open Primaries in the USA, with fairly accurate though not detailed info on each state

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Scroll down for info on specific primaries as they come up in 2010:
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  • Six states hold “closed” presidential primaries – Arizona (NOTE: Arizona holds open primaries at the state level), Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Oklahoma and Utah. Some 4.5 million independent voters – 2.4 million in New York alone – can’t vote because they aren’t registered party members. 
  • Five states hold “open” primaries – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee. Voters can choose to cast a ballot in either primary.
  • Four states have “semi-open primaries” – California, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Generally independents can vote for either party, although in some states, they must register with the party on Election Day. 
  • Nine states have party caucuses or conventions: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and West Virginia.
AUGUST 2010 PRIMARIES:

COLORADO - Yes you can, but you have to pick a party, and then you have to switch back...!

Colorado Independents helped Democrats elect Barack Obama in 2008....  The law allows unaffiliated voters to sign up with a party, even on primary election day, cast a ballot - and then switch back to their independent status. Nearly a third of Colorado voters are unaffiliated with either of the major political parties. (NPR)


MICHIGAN - Yes you can, but you have to pick a party!
Michigan has open primaries. This means a registered voter can walk into the polling place and pick a party. A chest-thumping liberal can ask for a Republican ballot without apology, and a conservative from the deepest part of right field doesn't need a disguise to play ball with the Democrats. The caveat is you only get one choice. For instance, if you vote on the the Democratic side for governor, you cannot switch to the Republican ballot for legislative races.... Another option is skipping the party stuff altogether. The nonpartisan ballot in St. Clair County features an elimination round for circuit judge as well as a menu of ballot questions including requests to renew smorgasbord taxes for libraries, parks, senior services and the community college. (From Mike Connell in the Port Huron Times Herald)

MINNESOTA - Yes you can, but you have to pick a party!
Minnesota’s open primary system does not require voters to be registered with a political party, but for partisan offices, each voter can only vote within one of the three major parties: Republican, Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) or Independence. The primary will decide which candidates from each party will move on to the general election Nov. 2. (From Downtown Journal)



KANSAS -- Yes you can!
From the De Soto Explorer:
Voters affiliated with a political party who want to participate in another party’s primary must change their affiliation by Monday. But independent voters can change their affiliation on Election Day. Independent voters can also participate in the Democratic primary without changing their affiliation.


ILLINOIS -- Uhhh, well yes, but then you become one of them, but then you can unaffiliate... but then everyone knows what ballot you chose...
From FairVote
"Must vote in primary of same party as last primary the voter participated in. Loosely enforced.  Voters may change party affiliation at polls or caucus." 

The big hoopla going on right now in Illinois re: the gov race is that voters feel their jobs can be threatened if they don't vote in the primary according to the party in power. Gov Pat Quinn just used his veto power to set up an open primary (we'll see what the legislature does with that). Quinn's independent challenger Scott Cohen also supports open primaries. 

Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn says: "Under Illinois' system, voters effectively register their affiliations when they ask for party ballots. But either way, the information becomes known to the world — or at least to the party operatives who use it to target direct-mail campaigns, get-out-the-vote efforts and so on."  Read more Zorn here.

CONNECTICUT -- No!
From Damon Eris at Poli-Tea
Connecticut has closed primaries. Thus, almost half of all registered voters will be ineligible to vote in the major party primaries, whose nominees will therefore be decided by a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of registered voters.... 

Rather than open the primary system, however, Connecticut's political establishment has instead chosen to begin brow beating voters to register with the Democratic and Republican parties. Late last week, Democratic Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz held a press conference (.pdf) with leaders of the state's Democratic and Republican party establishment to demand that voters give up their independent affiliations and enroll in the Democratic and Republican parties ahead of the primaries. From the press release:
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz today urged unaffiliated voters across the state to enroll with the Democrat or Republican Party by August 9th at 12:00 p.m. so they can vote in the statewide primaries Tuesday August 10, 2010. Connecticut's closed party system does not allow unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in the primaries, therefore unaffiliated voters must enroll as either Democrats or Republicans to cast a ballot in the primaries....

ARIZONA -- Yes you can!
In Arizona, independent voters can choose to participate in a partisan primary.... One of three Arizona voters is registered as independent. That large swath of Arizonans shouldn't be silent when their voices can make a difference. Unfortunately, many independent voters mistakenly believe that they're shut out of party primaries. They used to be. But 12 years ago, Arizona voters approved an open-primary system that lets independents participate in all but presidential primaries. (Parties set up their own presidential-preference systems.)



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JULY 2010 PRIMARIES:
OKLAHOMA -- No!
"Remember that Oklahoma does not have an open primary. Republicans cannot vote in Democratic races and Democrats cannot vote in Republican races. Depending on a voter's party affiliation, some races may or may not be represented on the primary ballot." (By Tulsa World's Editorial Writers)  

TENNESSEE - Yes you can, but you might get challenged by party hacks!
In Tennessee, people don't register to vote by declaring their political party affiliation. The state's open primary system allows any voter to vote in any primary election for which they are a qualified voter. Poll watchers can challenge a person who they recognize is not a bona fide member of the party holding the primary election. That recently happened to a woman in Crossville. After review by the election commission, the woman was allowed to vote in the party primary of her choice. (From Jackson Sun)

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Tuesday June 8, 2010, is "Super-Tuesday"

California - At the invitation of the parties, independents can vote in partisan primaries but must request a ballot of the party in whose primary they wish to vote. Proposition 14 is on the ballot on June 8. A "yes" on Prop 14 would create an open primary where all the candidates for state-wide office would be on the same ballot in the first round of voting, and all the voters would be able to choose from all of the candidates. The top two vote getters would go to a runoff in which all voters would be able to vote. If you are an independent you CAN vote in this primary for Proposition 14 and other ballot referendums. VOTE YES on 14 for OPEN PRIMARIES. See IndependentVoice.org to get involved. UPDATE: Prop 14 passed with 54%. It goes into effect in 2012.


Iowa - Iowa has a closed primary system, which means only voters registered as a Democrat or Republican can vote for their respective nominees. Independent voters and those who want to change their registration can do so at the polling site. Source: Quinnipiac Poll/WCF Courier
New Iowa registration over the last 12 months:
No party = 37,931/51%
Democrat = 18,254/25%
Republican = 17,759/24%

Maine - Independents can just show up and vote in either primary, but you must enroll in that party first. And, you must stay a member of that party for three months before you can drop your party affiliation, according to the Secretary of State's Office. Source: Morning Sentinel/Maine Today

Montana - DP, open primaries; RP, closed caucuses

New Jersey - New Jersey Statute 19:23-45 sets forth the requirements for voting in a primary election.
If you are
1. A registered voter and;
2. not affiliated with any party and;
3. have never voted in a primary before;
you may vote in the primary election on June 8th.
All you have to do is show up at your election districts designated voting place on June 8th and state which party’s primary you want to vote in (sorry you can not vote in both party primaries). Once you have voted will then be listed as being affiliated with the party whose primary you voted in. At any time thereafter you can change your affiliation by filing the appropriate forms with the County Clerk of Elections. Source: More Monmouth Musings

Nevada - Closed primaries (independents are not eligible to vote in either party primary) Reno Gazette Journal

North Dakota - open caucuses


South Carolina - no partisan registration, you can vote in the primary of your choice

South Dakota - First, the Democratic Party opened its primary to independent and non-affiliated voters this year, but not to members of other parties. Only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary. Source: Rapid City Journal

Virginia - VA doesn't have party registration. Officially, you're all independents. Yes, you can vote in either primary. Source: Yahoo Answers (There are no Democratic Congressional races on June 8)


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
May 18, 2010, is primary day in some key states for independent voters: Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Arkansas.

Pennsylvania primaries (Thanks to FairVote for these definitions)  are closed, meaning that only registered Dems or Repubs can vote in that party's primary. If you're an independent, you're flat outa luck. See Independent Pennsylvanians for redress!

Kentucky primaries are open, meaning that voters of any affiliation may vote for the slate of any party (which seems to mean that independents can vote but can only vote in the party primary that they choose for that election.) You might want to contact at Michael Lewis on Facebook or at Independent Kentucky.

Arkansas primaries are open except for runoff elections. Voters went for Clinton and Huckabee in the primary and for McCain in the general in 2008. (Little known fact: Arkansas is the birth state of The Hankster...)

Email me with questions or comments. hanks_nancy@msn.com