Can I Vote in my Primary?

Every four years all eligible voters can cast their votes to elect their preferred candidate for the office of the president of the United States. But first, the candidates need to get their party’s nomination before they can run in the general election. The nomination can be done either through a caucus or a primary. Some states, however, use a mixture of both to elect their candidates. 

What Is A Primary? How Is It Different From A Caucus? 

The primary is a concept that developed in the early twentieth century to allow citizens to cast their votes anonymously. A primary is like a general election. You go on election day and vote for your preferred candidate in a secret ballot. Depending on the state and the party, the winner will get the majority or all of the state’s delegates in the national convention. Also, like a general election, it’s funded by the state government. 

A caucus, on the other hand is usually conducted publicly where advocates of candidates give speeches to sway voters. A caucus is also funded and organized by party members and not by the states.  

Are Primaries Similar Throughout The States? 

No. There are three types of primaries used by states; closed, open or mixed. In a closed primary, you can only vote for a party that you are registered with. This means a registered Democrat can only vote in the Democratic Primary and a Republican-only in the Republican Primary. Independents and unregistered voters are unable to vote in closed primaries.  

Open primaries, on the other hand, permit citizens to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary regardless of their party affiliation. A voter can’t vote in more than one primary, however.  

The third type of primary is a mixed primary. Here, unregistered voters have the choice to vote in one of the two primaries while registered voters must vote in the party they registered for.  

Can I Vote In My State’s Primary If I Am Not Registered? 

It depends. You will be able to vote if your state follows an open primary or a semi-open (mixed) primary. The following table lists the kind of primaries that states follow in the 2020 election. 


Open Closed Semi-Open (Mixed)

South Carolina Democratic Primary 

South Carolina Republican Primary 

New Hampshire  






North Carolina  





Puerto Rico Republican Primary  




Rhode Island 



West Virginia  


Alaska Democratic Primary 

New Jersey 


Hawaii Democratic Primary  



Louisiana Primary 



New York Republican Primary 















Kentucky Democratic primary  


Kansas Democratic Primary 




New Mexico 



South Dakota  



D. C democratic Primary  


Puerto Rico Democratic Primary  




Note: The states that are not listed here either use caucuses or conventions to nominate their candidate. 


Democratic Primaries and Republican Primaries, Do They Follow The Same Procedure?  

The main difference between the Republican and Democratic Primaries is how they apportion delegates. The Republicans in many states use what is called “winner takes all”. This means the candidate who wins will take all the delegates from that state. Some states, however, will use this method if the candidate gets the majority votes.  

The Democrats, on the other hand, follow a proportional system to allocate delegates. Accordingly, the candidates will only take delegates proportional to the votes they win. The candidates in the Democratic primaries need to also secure at least 15% of the threshold to get any delegates. 

Preserve Your Rights by Speaking to an Attorney   

The right to vote is a fundamental right given to all citizens by the constitution. If you think your right to vote has been violated,  or want to know more about the process, you should speak with an attorney with experience on election law to get help on ensuring your rights remain protected.  


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