Before the main election, voters turn out to elect the final candidates in a primary election. These primaries can be either open, closed or semi-closed. In an open election, all voters can vote for a candidate in the party of their choice. In a closed election, only those registered for a party can vote in that party's primary election. The semi-closed primary allows registered independents to vote in the primary of their choosing. Though all forms have their merits, closed primaries aim for a special type of fairness.

Candidate Selection

Of course, the main purpose of any primary is to select the candidate that will go on to the main election. In a closed election, the idea that only members of the party should choose who runs. Democrats should have the opportunity to select the Democrat candidate, while Republicans should have the opportunity to select the Republican candidate. In theory, members of the party should have more invested in the candidate they choose and may take time to ensure that the candidate select truly aligns with their views.

A True Party Platform

When candidates anticipate independent voters to vote in the primary election, they may tone down their views in an effort to appeal to the more moderate nature of independent voters. In this case, the candidates for a party might water down their views. When the election is closed, the candidates may feel free to show their true feelings on the issues, though these issues might be controversial among a larger audience. In this way, the party as a whole sees issue trends within the party. For example, a strong showing for a primary candidate who focuses on improving the economy may indicate that this is the most important issue for voters.

Avoiding Crossover Voting

The big fear in an open primary election is that the other party will determine the candidate. In crossover voting, a registered Democrat might vote in the Republican primary elections, selecting the candidate that he feels is the weakest, in an attempt to make the Democratic candidate seem stronger. Of course, the opposite could happen as well, with Republican voters choosing a weak Democratic nominee. Closed elections attempt to eliminate this phenomenon.


Voters may vote for any candidate in a major election. A registered Republican, for example, might vote for the Libertarian candidate or the Democratic candidate. A person could easily lie about their political preference in order to gain access to a closed primary. Ultimately, the parties must trust voters.