Do You Have to Vote for the Party You're Registered With?

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’re registered with, in a federal, state, or local general election.

  • But in a presidential primary or caucus, depending on your state’s rules, you may have to vote for a candidate from the political party you’ve registered with.

Voting in Primary and Caucus Elections

States choose a candidate to run for president through primary elections, caucuses, or both. Depending on your state’s voting rules, your state’s primary or caucus elections can be open, closed, or some combination, which 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’ll know how you’re able to vote in them. 

Voting in the General Election

In the general election, you are eligible to vote for any candidate from any party. It doesn’t matter if you’re registered for a political party or whom you may have voted for in the past. You can vote in the general election even if you didn’t vote in your state’s primary or caucus. 

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Last Updated: November 5, 2019

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