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Do you have to vote for the party you are registered with?

In general elections, you do not have to vote for the candidate from your party. Depending on your state, rules for voting in primaries or caucuses may be different. Learn more.

Your state may give you the opportunity to declare your political party affiliation on your voter registration card.

  • You do not have to vote for the party you are registered with in a federal, state, or local general election.
  • Depending on your state’s rules, you may only be allowed to vote for the political party you are registered with. This may apply when you vote in:
    • A presidential primary or caucus
    • Congressional or local office primaries

Voting in the general election

In the general election, you are eligible to vote for any candidate from any party. It does not matter if you are registered with a political party or who you voted for in the past. And you can vote in the general election even if you did not vote in your state's primary or caucus.

Voting in primary and caucus elections

Primaries and caucuses are ways that political parties in each state choose a candidate to run for president or Congress. Political parties in states, towns, and cities may also use primaries to choose candidates for statewide or local office. Depending on your state's or locality's voting rules, its primary or caucus elections can be open, closed, or a combination of both. The type of primary or caucus can affect your voting eligibility:

  • During an open primary or caucus, people can vote for a candidate of any political party.
  • During a closed primary or caucus, only voters registered with that party can take part and vote.
  • "Semi-open" and "semi-closed" primaries and caucuses are variations of the two main types.

Check which kind of primary elections your state has so you will know how you can vote in them.

LAST UPDATED: February 16, 2024


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