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How your state runs its presidential primaries

  • How your state runs its presidential primaries
    1/ Jessica Whittle Photography // Flickr

    How your state runs its presidential primaries

    The 2018 midterm elections saw the most ballots cast since 1966, with the participation of over 47% of eligible voters. There were even districts with more voters in the midterms than in the previous presidential election. The “Super Tuesday” presidential primaries, in which a majority of districts across the United States choose party candidates for commander-in-chief, are set for March 3, 2020.

    Most states run presidential primaries, which run similarly to a general election. Primaries are organized by the particular state, and voters cast a ballot for their chosen candidate. A state's law dictates whether that primary is closed (i.e. a voter must be affiliated with a party to vote in that party's primary election), open (the voter does not need to be registered with a specific party to vote), or semi-closed (each party can choose between open or closed). However, there are a few select states that choose to run a caucus instead. A caucus is run by the political parties; members of a specific party meet, discuss, and choose a candidate to represent their party in the election.

    Former President Barack Obama urged young people to vote in a 2018 video for ATTN:, shutting down common excuses for not voting such as “I don't care about politics,” and “I don't have time to vote.” Online movements like Open Primaries and Do Something are weeding out the facts from fiction about voting in the United States for the under-informed.

    It's no secret that politics, for many Americans, can be pretty confusing. Navigating a state's government website is enough to give anyone a headache. With the primaries just under a year away, Stacker wanted to give readers important information about how each state runs its presidential primaries in a clear and succinct way. Stacker collected information from the Secretary of State and official election websites and compared facts from online political resources like Fair Vote, Election Central, and Ballotpedia. Additionally, Stacker consulted the online archives of various journalistic resources and local news sites to make sure the information was current.

     

    You might also like: History of political parties in America

  • Alabama
    2/ Eilleen Salazar // Shutterstock

    Alabama

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    Alabama voters are not required to have a party affiliation. Voters are, however, required to declare a party affiliation at the polling place, but they will not be held to that party in the following primary. Alabama has been requiring photo identification at the polls since 2014.

  • Alaska
    3/ Shealah Craighead/SarahPAC // Flickr

    Alaska

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    When it comes Alaska's presidential primaries, voters must be affiliated with a specific party to vote in the caucus. What's more, voters must be registered with their parties two months before the primaries. In Alaska, parties conduct caucuses rather than traditional primaries to find a presidential nominee, and caucuses are organized by the parties rather than the state as a whole.

  • Arizona
    4/ Nathan Rupert // Flickr

    Arizona

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    To be able to vote in the primaries, voters must register with a particular party a minimum of 29 days before the election in Arizona. Voters must be affiliated with a specific party to vote. A person must submit some form of identification to vote in Arizona, but the form of identification does not need to include a photograph.

  • Arkansas
    5/ U.S. Department of State // Flickr

    Arkansas

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    There is no party affiliation required to vote in Arkansas. Arkansas has only been requiring photo identification to vote since 2018, but a person can still cast a provisional ballot if they don't have ID.

  • California
    6/ Robyn Beck // Getty Images

    California

    Democratic primaries: semi-closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    For Republicans, voters are required to declare their party preference 15 days before the election. California voters are rarely asked to show photo identification unless it is their first time voting.

  • Colorado
    7/ Kerem Yucel // Getty Images

    Colorado

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    Voters in Colorado must be registered with a particular party two months before the primary. A person must be affiliated with a party to vote in its caucus. For young voters, they must have turned 18 at least two months before their party's caucus in order to participate.

  • Connecticut
    8/ roibu // Shutterstock

    Connecticut

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    Voters must register with a specific party in order to vote in the caucus, and voters must register at least three months before the election. The winners are chosen based on the greatest number of votes overall, rather than the majority of votes cast.

  • Delaware
    9/ Jessie Daniels // Flickr

    Delaware

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    In Delaware, only voters who are registered with a party may vote in the primaries, and they must do so at least 60 days before the election. Delaware uses a plurality voting system for its presidential primaries.

  • Florida
    10/ Rob Crandall // Shutterstock

    Florida

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    Voters are required to pick a party within 29 days of the election in Florida. A person must be affiliated with a party to vote in its primary, and must submit both a photo ID and a signature ID at the polls.

  • Georgia
    11/ Mark Ralston // Getty Images

    Georgia

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    There is no party affiliation required to vote in Georgia. Registration can be done online or through the mail and must be submitted no less than 28 days before the election. Voters must be 18 at the time of the election and 17.5 years old at the time of registration.

  • Hawaii
    12/ Alexandru Nika // Shutterstock

    Hawaii

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    In Hawaii, houses are organized into a majority caucus and a minority caucus, and each is free to elect their own leaders. To vote in a party's caucus, voters must be registered with that particular party. However, Hawaii allows a person to change their affiliation on the day of the caucus.

  • Idaho
    13/ Rob Crandall // Shutterstock

    Idaho

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    For Democrats, no party affiliation is required to vote in its caucus. Republicans, on the other hand, do require affiliation, but voters are allowed to change their party registration on Election Day. As long as someone will be 18 years old at the time of the election, they are eligible to participate in Idaho's caucus.

  • Illinois
    14/ Drew Angerer // Getty Images

    Illinois

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    Party affiliation is not required in Illinois, but it is customary for voters to verbally declare their party at the polling place before receiving a ballot. A person as young as 17 may be allowed to vote in Illinois as long as they'll be 18 by the general election.

  • Indiana
    15/ Alexandru Nika // Shutterstock

    Indiana

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    While no party affiliation is required, in order to vote in a party's primary, a voter must have cast a ballot in the previous election for a majority of that party's nominees. If they did not vote in the last election, the voter is required to vote for a majority of that party's nominees in the current election, though this is often not enforced.

  • Iowa
    16/ Darya Andrievskaya // Shutterstock

    Iowa

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    In the Iowa caucuses, voters from 1,774 state precincts meet to discuss and elect a delegate. To vote in a particular party's caucus, a voter must be registered with that party. However, voters may change their party on the day of the caucus.

  • Kansas
    17/ Keith Ivy // Flickr

    Kansas

    Democratic primaries: semi-closed
    Republican primaries: semi-closed

    In Kansas, voters must be affiliated with a party to vote in its caucus. On caucus day, unaffiliated voters may choose a party that day. If they're already affiliated, they can only change affiliation 21 or more days before the caucus. In 2016, both parties held their caucus on the same day.

  • Kentucky
    18/ Kerem Yucel // Getty Images

    Kentucky

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    For Democrats, voters must be affiliated with the party to vote in primary elections, and for Republicans, they must be registered for the caucus. For either party, registered voters can change their affiliation by Dec. 31 before the primary, and unregistered voters must choose at least 30 days before.

  • Louisiana
    19/ IIP Photo Archive // Flickr

    Louisiana

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    Voters must register with a party at least one month before the election, and have to be affiliated with a specific party to vote in its primary. Statute law allows both parties to open their primaries to unregistered voters, but neither has chosen to do so.

  • Maine
    20/ RachelH // Flickr

    Maine

    Democratic primaries: semi-closed
    Republican primaries: semi-closed

    If a party wishes to hold an open primary, they may do so—but only after notifying the Secretary of State before Feb. 1 on the election year. Voters must be affiliated with a party three weeks before the caucus, and must be registered in order to vote. While the Maine legislature passed a law in 2016 establishing primaries for the presidential election, caucuses are still observed.

  • Maryland
    21/ Maryland GovPics // Flickr

    Maryland

    Democratic primaries: semi-closed
    Republican primaries: semi-closed

    Parties in Maryland are permitted to hold open primaries if they notify the state board of elections six months prior. If voters are already affiliated, they may re-register at least 21 days before the primary. However, unregistered voters must declare a party on the day of the election to vote.

  • Massachusetts
    22/ Kerem Yucel // Getty Images

    Massachusetts

    Democratic primaries: semi-closed
    Republican primaries: semi-closed

    Voters affiliated with a certain party may only vote in their party's primary, as long as they are registered three weeks before. They may choose to remain unaffiliated and vote in either party if they wish. Voters don't usually need to present a photo ID in order to vote unless it is their first time, and it is possible to register online.

  • Michigan
    23/ Rob Crandall // Shutterstock

    Michigan

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    There is no party affiliation needed to vote in Michigan, but voters must register 30 days before the election. While online voting is permitted, residents are not allowed to register to vote online.

  • Minnesota
    24/ Jeff King // Flickr

    Minnesota

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    Voters do not need to be affiliated with a particular party to vote in the Minnesota primaries. In order to vote in Minnesota, a person needs to have lived in the state for more than 20 days preceding the election, and same-day voter registration is allowed.

  • Mississippi
    25/ Mario Tama // Getty Images

    Mississippi

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    Mississippi law states that a voter must generally be in support of a party's nominations to participate in that primary, though it often goes unenforced. No party registration is required to vote.

  • Missouri
    26/ Jessica Whittle Photography // Flickr

    Missouri

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    A person does not need to be affiliated with a party to vote in Missouri. Voters must be 18 at the time of voting and must present a form of identification to receive a ballot. However, the form of identification does not need to be a photo ID.

  • Montana
    27/ Alex Edelman // Getty Images

    Montana

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    While affiliation with a specific party is not required in Montana, the state Republican bylaws dictate that their party must choose a closed primary if the state ever changes the law to let either party choose. The deadline for voter registration is 28 days before the election, and online registration is not allowed.

  • Nebraska
    28/ Alex Edelman // Getty Images

    Nebraska

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: closed

    A person must be affiliated with the party to vote in its primary or caucus in Nebraska. Democrats allow voters to choose on voting day, and Republicans require voters to be registered with their party 10 days before the primary. Nebraska Democrats voted in 2018 to put an end to their caucus procedure and employ a traditional primary system in the 2020 election.

  • Nevada
    29/ Andrew Mager // Flickr

    Nevada

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: closed

    Nevada is the third state to share its nominee decision with the rest of the United States. Democrats let voters affiliate with the Democratic Party the day of the caucus, but Republicans only allow affiliation at least 10 days before theirs. Voters are required to register with a specific party to vote in its primary.

  • New Hampshire
    30/ Steve Pope // Getty Images

    New Hampshire

    Democratic primaries: semi-closed
    Republican primaries: semi-closed

    A voter who wishes to change their party must do so at least one day before the primary. If voters are unaffiliated, they are required to affiliate to vote in a primary. However, voters are given the option to immediately unaffiliate after voting.

  • New Jersey
    31/ Suzanne Tucker // Shutterstock

    New Jersey

    Democratic primaries: semi-closed
    Republican primaries: semi-closed

    Those who'd like to change their affiliation are required to do so 50 days before their desired party's primary election. If a person is unaffiliated, they may register at the polls on the day of the election, but they must be affiliated with a specific party to vote in its primary.

  • New Mexico
    32/ Brian Kusler // Flickr

    New Mexico

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    A voter must register for a specific party 28 days before the primary, and must be affiliated with the party whose primary they wish to vote in. New Mexico does not require identification at the polls unless the person did not provide ID when they registered.

  • New York
    33/ S Hooper // Flickr

    New York

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    In order to vote in the presidential primary in New York, a voter must register 25 days before the general election preceding the primary they wish to vote in (usually, that equates to October of the previous year). Voters must be affiliated with a party to participate in its primary, not including the Independence Party.

  • North Carolina
    34/ Rob Crandall // Shutterstock

    North Carolina

    Democratic primaries: semi-closed
    Republican primaries: semi-closed

    Voters in North Carolina who are affiliated with a specific party may only vote in their party's primary. If they're unaffiliated, they may remain so while still voting in any party's primary. Residents of North Carolina voted to pass an amendment requiring photo identification at the polls in 2018.

  • North Dakota
    35/ Liz West // Flickr

    North Dakota

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    North Dakota doesn't require voter registration, so no party affiliation is necessary. For the 2020 election, state Democrats voted to implement a “firehouse caucus” with hopes to increase participation. This means that there will be 14 different caucus locations set up around the state on caucus day in 2019.

  • Ohio
    36/ Alex Edelman // Getty Images

    Ohio

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    While voters must be affiliated with a party to vote in its primary, it is possible to pick an affiliation on the Election Day. If they voted in a different party for the previous year's primary, they must issue a statement at their polling place that confirms the change.

  • Oklahoma
    37/ Scott Olson // Getty Images

    Oklahoma

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: closed

    In even-numbered years, voters are allowed to change their affiliation before March 31. Parties may amend their preference by November of the year before the primary by informing the state board of education. Voters must be affiliated with a party to vote in its primary.

  • Oregon
    38/ Susan Ruggles // Flickr

    Oregon

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    Voter registration closes in Oregon 21 days before the election, and a voter must be affiliated with a party in order to vote in its primary. Oregon is an election-by-mail state, meaning voting is done entirely by mail. A person can register online and must provide a federally or state issued ID when doing so.

  • Pennsylvania
    39/ Patrik Smith // Getty Images

    Pennsylvania

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    It is necessary for a voter to affiliate with a particular party up to 30 days before an election. Only those who've registered with a specific party may vote in that party's primary. The state voted against a law requiring photo ID at the polls in 2014, but voters may still be asked if it is their first time voting.

  • Rhode Island
    40/ Joshua Lott // Getty Images

    Rhode Island

    Democratic primaries: semi-closed
    Republican primaries: semi-closed

    Voters in Rhode Island may only vote in their affiliated party's primary. If a person is unaffiliated, it is possible to choose between primaries, or they can disaffiliate 90 days before the primary. All voters must register at least 30 days before an election.

  • South Carolina
    41/ Ralph Freso // Getty Images

    South Carolina

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    According to South Carolina laws, while it is not required to affiliate, voters are required to declare that they have not yet voted in another primary. South Carolina also has an online voter system and requires photo identification at polling places.

  • South Dakota
    42/ Scott Olson // Getty Images

    South Dakota

    Democratic primaries: semi-closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    South Dakota allows parties to choose between semi-closed elections. For Democratic primaries, voters do not need to be registered as a Democrat to vote. For Republicans, voters must affiliate with the Republican Party at least 15 days before an election.

  • Tennessee
    43/ Alex Wong // Getty Images

    Tennessee

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    While no affiliation is required, voters must either affiliate at their polling place on the day of or make a statement in support of the party. Republicans changed their bylaws in 2017 to require presidential candidates to have voted in three out of the last four GOP primaries in order to run as a Republican.

  • Texas
    44/ IIP Photo Archive // Flickr

    Texas

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    A person is not required to affiliate with a certain party to vote in Texas. The state uses three different methods for voting in the primaries: paper ballots, optical scan systems, and Direct Record Electronic systems. Paper ballots continue to be the most used method of voting in several counties throughout the state.

  • Utah
    45/ Mario Tama // Getty Images

    Utah

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    Utah holds caucuses in different neighborhoods throughout the state. Members vote for delegates to represent their precinct at county and state conventions. Both parties require affiliation, but it is possible for voters to affiliate at their polling place on the day of the election.

  • Vermont
    46/ Joshua Lott // Getty Images

    Vermont

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    Vermont does not require registration by party. Presidential candidates are required to submit a petition signed by 1,000 Vermont citizens who are registered to vote to the Secretary of State to be considered for the primaries.

  • Virginia
    47/ Rob Crandall // Shutterstock

    Virginia

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    No registration by party is required in Virginia. The Republican Party in the state initially had plans to request a “party loyalty pledge” during its presidential primary in 2016, but later voted against it.

  • Washington
    48/ Scott Olson // Getty Images

    Washington

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: closed

    Democrats allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the time of the next election to vote in the primary, and anyone can vote in its caucus regardless of affiliation. Republicans, on the other hand, require all voters to be 18. In January 2019, the Senate passed a bill that would move up the state's presidential primary by at least two months.

  • West Virginia
    49/ Carol A Hudson // Shutterstock

    West Virginia

    Democratic primaries: semi-closed
    Republican primaries: semi-closed

    Registered voters in West Virginia may change their affiliation 21 days before the primary, but may only vote in that party's primary. If a person is unaffiliated, they can vote in either party's primary while remaining unaffiliated.

  • Wisconsin
    50/ Rob Crandall // Shutterstock

    Wisconsin

    Democratic primaries: open
    Republican primaries: open

    There is no requirement for party affiliation in Wisconsin. For the 2016 presidential primaries, voter turnout was at 47.4%, a step up from the overall average of 37% since 1948.

  • Wyoming
    51/ Scott Olson // Getty Images

    Wyoming

    Democratic primaries: closed
    Republican primaries: closed

    A person must be registered with a specific party to vote in its caucus, with Democrats allowing affiliation 15 days before and Republicans 10 days before. As a result of the 2016 election, Wyoming Democrats formed a new “progressive caucus” in hopes of increasing participation.

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