In a primary election, voters select the candidates who will represent each political party in the upcoming general election. But not everyone is eligible to vote in a primary election. Here is what you need to know before you vote.


To vote in a primary election, you must register in your district at least 30 days before the primary election. Each state has different requirements, however, so be sure to check your state's Division of Elections well in advance of the next primary.

Open Primary

Several states, such as Arkansas, Idaho and South Carolina, have open primaries. In an open primary, voters can vote in either party's primary regardless of their own party affiliation. They may only vote in one party's primary, however, not both.

Closed Primary

In a closed primary, voters may only vote for a candidate in the party with which they have registered. So, for example, only registered Democrats may vote in the Democratic primary, and only registered Republicans may vote in the Republican primary. Voters who have not declared a political party are not eligible to vote in either primary. States with closed primaries include Connecticut, Florida, and Maryland.

When to Vote

Primary elections take place during the spring before a general election, however, the date varies from state to state. Primaries are held for only one day each election season.

Be Prepared

Be sure to do your research before you vote in a primary. Study the strengths and weaknesses of each potential candidate to determine who will best represent the party for which you are voting. The candidates chosen in the primary will determine the course of the general election, so be sure to choose wisely.