Can I vote without registering with a party?

Anonymous asked this question on 8/1/2000:

After several stubborn years of ignoring politics, I'm ready to register to vote. I'd prefer not to join a party but I've been told I have to. Is this true that I can't register to vote as non-partisan?

morrisonhimself gave this response on 8/2/2000:

You do
* not* have to join a party.
There is not a state in the union in which you
* have* to join a party to be a registered voter. (In fact, in several there is no such thing as party registration, Georgia and Tennessee, to name two.)
Now, if you wanted to vote in a primary, then yes you have to be a member of -- registered in -- a party.
Please also bear in mind there are many more than just the two old parties, Democrat and Republican.
I recommend the Libertarian Party, if you believe in the Constitution and individual rights.
The Constitution Party, on the other hand, wants to put the Bible into law. If you are a strong Christian, that might be your party.
The Green Party is partly for environmental regulation and partly for various other governmental controls, especially against corporations (even though corporations would not exist except for government). You can check out the Green Website and decide if you want to join it.
There is the Reform Party, and whatever it finally stands for. (The Reform convention is this month. Check the C-SPAN schedule.)
Don't forget the Natural Law Party. Its presidential nominee, for the third election in a row, is John Hagelin. He, by the way, is also seeking the Reform Party nomination and has the gall to declare Pat Buchanan is trying to "hijack" the RP nomination! The NLP wants to make, not the Bible, but Transcendental Meditation the law.
Want alcohol banned? Join the Prohibition Party, which will have its presidential candidate on at least two state ballots this year.
There are dozens of other parties, including various Socialist groups, several dedicated to some particular cause, or supposedly partisans of the working people, and some of which have purely local existences. In New York, for example, there are the Liberal, Conservative, Right to Life parties.
West Virginia just got ballot status for a party that exists nowhere else.
And last month, July, saw the first convention of the new-ish Southern Party, which also has a Website. (I think it is a very non-racist but pro-secessionist party.)
The specific mechanisms do vary from state to state, but, again, you do
* not* have to join a party, except to vote in the primaries.
You can register "Independent" or "non-partisan" or "none" or "American" or "Pajama" or "Birthday" and the registrar has to accept your choice.
Let me know, please, if you have any specific party questions I can help with.
Michael Morrison

madpol gave this response on 8/2/2000:

It depends on what state you are in. However, declaring a party affiliation doesn't commit you to vote for that party. You can also always change your party affiliation to vote in the primary you want to in any given year.

In Texas, where the primaries are staggered, you can actually vote in all of them.

Anonymous asked this follow-up question on 8/2/2000:

Thanks for the information. The reason I asked is because I tried to register through They will send you a registration packet for your state with your information on it and when I tried to submit my form without a party selected, it told me it was required. Is there any way I can confirm my state (Pennsylvania) requires party-affiliation?


madpol gave this response on 8/2/2000:

Call your local Board of Elections, (They'll be in the Blue pages of the directory) to confirm the requirement. You can also register at any DMV office or the Public Library.

Anonymous asked this question on 8/11/2000:

I am a resident of California and am currently registered under one of the major political parties. I would like to change my registration to be independent. How can I do that? I went to fill out the online form and I noticed there were one of two possibilities. One option was not to select any party at all. The other was to select an option that said "Other" and write in "Independent." I'm a little weary of that because there was an "American Independent Party" and I don't want to be registered under them. Thanks.

madpol gave this response on 8/11/2000:

The party affiliation listed on your voter's registration is pretty much meaningless except to bureaucrats who use it in some kind of arcane ritual.

The parties themselves, (and this is important if you are trying to get a patronage job,) go by whose ballot you took when you voted in the primary. There are, of course, states where the primaries are staggered and you can vote in all of them.

So if you are uncomfortable with aligning yourself with any particular party, leave the space blank. It doesn't really affect anything.

Anonymous rated this answer:

Very quick answer. I know it doesn't mean anything to anyone else but I wanted to change just for my peace of mind. Thanks again.

JesseGordon gave this response on 8/2/2000:

I agree with -- it depends on your state, but of course you can always VOTE as non-partisan, even if you have to REGISTER with a party.

In Massachusetts, you can register as "non-enrolled" which means no party affiliation at all. That entitles you to vote in the general election but not in the primaries.

To vote in the primaries, you DO have to pick a party, since you only get to vote in one party's primary. But you can change your party registration on the day of the primaries at the polls, then vote, then immediately change back to non-enrolled. So you're only registered with a party for the ten minutes it takes to vote.

You'll have to figure out the rules in your state, but the general idea nowadays is to make it as easy as possible to register and vote, including for non-partisans.

Note also that REGISTERING to vote with a party is NOT the same as JOINING a party. "Joining" means giving them a contribution, I'd say. Yes, the parties care if you register with them, since they count that for all sorts of things. But you certainly don't have to officially join the party in order to vote.

Anonymous asked this question on 5/16/2000:

I am a registered democrat voter. My question is this. If I vote for any other party besides democrat will my vote be counted as anything but a democratic vote (besides the primary elections) . I was told that it doesn't matter how I voted that once I registered that was what was used in the electoral votes on the national level. If so, then would registering as an independent voter allow me to vote for anybody and it would count as a vote for them?

madpol gave this response on 5/17/2000:

Whoever told you that was in error. In many states, you can only vote in the primary of the party you registered with. In other states, like Illinois, you can vote in any primary by selecting that party's ballot. In Texas, where primaries are staggered, you can vote in all of the primaries.

But your vote in the general election is recorded just the way you vote, without regard to your party affiliation. Some precinct captains will try to alter ballots once they are cast, but this is becoming increasingly difficult and election fraud is more likely to be detected and prosecuted these days than in the past.

This, of course, assumes that you are living. If you are dead--and used to live in Chicago--your vote will be recorded Democratic.

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