Choosing the person who could be chosen to lead
Primaries are an important part of the democratic process, but certain states have laws around who is eligible to vote in them, often around voters’ registered political parties.
What are the primaries?
Primaries are elections that allow political parties to determine the candidate who will go on to represent them in later elections.
These can happen at any level, but get the most attention in the two years ahead of a Presidential election, when voters determine which candidates will represent the Democratic and Republican parties in the main election in November.
Open vs. Closed Primaries
Open Primaries allow any registered voter to pick the candidate that will represent their party as the nominee in the upcoming election.
Closed Primaries require that the voter only pick the candidate from the voter’s registered party. For example, a voter registered as a Republican could only pick their choice for the Republican nominee.
Some states allow voters registered as independents to align themselves with a party on the day of the Primary Election so they may vote for a party candidate of their choosing.
Check the Deadlines
Primaries happen ahead of general elections, whether they’re for Presidential, state, or local elections. Any time two or more candidates from the same party run against each other, there’s a primary before the general election.
Because of the lead time needed between Primaries and general elections, you’ll need to ensure you’re registered to vote at your current address as soon as possible if you want to participate.
Registering with a party
As mentioned above, Closed Primaries require voters to be registered with a specific political party before they can participate.
You may have selected a party to align yourself with when you registered to vote. If you’re not sure what you selected, or you’d like to change your party alignment, you simply have to update your voter registration. (The same way you would if you moved or changed your name.)