Presidential Primaries and Crossover Voting
General Information About Closed Primaries in California
Every 4 years, Americans cast their vote for President. The nominees for President and Vice-President are chosen by political parties. Political parties have varied state rules on how to choose their nominees; for example, whether to hold a primary or a caucus, how to apportion votes (winner take all versus proportional), etc. They can be complex events, and so it is important for voters to know what to do in order to participate in a presidential primary election.
In California, the Presidential Primary is partially closed. That means that, in general, voters can participate in the primary on the condition that the voter is registered with the party for whom they support as their nominee. In other words, Republicans vote in the Republican Primary, Democrats vote in the Democratic Primary, etc. If you want to vote in the primary, you must declare a party preference.
There are currently 6 certified political parties in California that will have a presidential primary:
- American Independent Party
- Democratic Party
- Green Party
- Libertarian Party
- Peace & Freedom Party
- Republican Party
Crossover Voting for No Party Preference Voters
However, some--but not all--political parties choose to allow No Party Preference (NPP) voters to participate in their primary without having to re-register. That is what's referred to as a "crossover." If you are not registered with one of the certified political parties, that means that the state election laws consider you to be a NPP voter and you will be given the option to crossover.
Every presidential election cycle, the political parties will notify the Secretary of State as to whether they will allow crossover voting. Counties will then notify voters as to which parties allow crossovers as the presidential primary election draws near.
If you are a NPP voter, you have 3 choices for how to participate in the primary:
- Request a crossover. This is only allowed for the parties that authorize it.
- Re-register. Do this if you want to participate in the party's primary but do not have the option to crossover.
- Do nothing. You will be provided a ballot with no presidential candidates on it, but every other contest will be available to you to vote on.
No matter how you decide to participate in the Presidential Primary, everyone will be able to vote for President and Vice-President in the November General Election.