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Nonpartisan Primaries

Not Invited to the Party Primary

Independent Voters and the Problem with Closed Primaries

Carlo Macomber
Research Assistant
February 13, 2024

Carlo Macomber and Tyler Fisher of the Unite America Institute examine the impact of closed partisan primaries on independent voters, as well as the attitudes and perspectives of the independents left out of primaries. 

They find that, across the 22 states with closed presidential primaries or caucuses, there are over 27 million voters not registered with a major party and, therefore, lack the right to participate in taxpayer-funded major party primaries. The share of voters locked out by closed primaries has also increased by nearly 20% since 2010. 

Further, through an analysis of a first-of-its-kind survey of independents voters who live in closed primary states (“Excluded Independents”), the report finds that these voters hold nuanced political beliefs from across the ideological spectrum while viewing both major parties and their presidential candidates unfavorably. Excluded Independents also believe the current closed primary system is unfair, support open and nonpartisan primary reform solutions, and would participate in partisan primaries if they could. The report concludes by offering a few policy solutions that closed primary states could implement to allow independent voters to participate in all elections.

Read the full report here, and find the poll on Excluded Independents here (conducted by Change Research, January 10-20, 2024).