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What is a semi-open primary?

Understanding Semi-Open Primaries: Balancing Choice with Party Affiliation

Alana Persson
Digital Marketing Associate
April 11, 2024

What is a Semi-Open Primary?

Semi-open primaries are a type of partisan primary where independent voters can choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary. Voters who are registered with a specific party can only vote in their own party's primary.

This approach promotes broader participation than closed primaries, where only registered party members can vote in primary elections.

Key Features of Semi-Open Primaries

The hallmark of semi-open primaries is the ability of independent voters to participate in primaries without affiliating with any party. By allowing the full electorate to participate in primary elections, candidates who are more representative of all voters have a better chance of advancing to general elections. 

However, the system still requires voters to vote for candidates from only one party up and down the ballot. They cannot, for instance, vote for a Republican for one office and a Democrat for another. 

Conclusion: Implications for Voters and Political Parties

Semi-open primaries provide a pathway for independent voters to have a say in taxpayer-funded elections, a step in the right direction from closed primaries. However, semi-open primaries can still limit voters’ choice by requiring them to pick one of the major parties’ ballots to have a say in election outcomes. To learn more about all primary systems — including nonpartisan primaries which give voters the most voice and choice — see this explainer.