Party Registration Matters in Presidential Primaries

With seven weeks left to register to vote in the June 7 election, Humboldt County Clerk, Recorder and Registrar of Voters Kelly Sanders last week offered a primer on primaries, including the fact that voters registered without a party preference will be limited in their options to choose a presidential candidate.

The winner of each party’s presidential primary election, of course, will help select who will represent that political party in the general election. This year the primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 7. The deadline to register to vote in the primary is Monday, May 23.

Sanders was asked about primary election registration and responded by email. “Each voter will vote a ballot based on their party registration. A registered Democrat will vote a Democratic ballot, a registered Republican will vote a Republican ballot, a registered Green Party member will vote a Green ballot, and so on,” Sanders explained.

Six political parties are holding presidential primaries: the Democratic, Republican, American Independent, Green, Libertarian, and Peace and Freedom parties.

The only party-nominated contest on the ballot is for the presidency, Sanders said.

Sanders provided a pamphlet on voting in a primary election that said if a voter is registered with one of the six parties listed, their ballot will include the candidates running for that party’s nomination.

Sanders commented that although voters registered as “no party preference” (formerly known as decline-to-state voters) are eligible to vote in the primary election, since they did not declare a party, the office of president of the United States will not appear on their ballot. For the June 7 election, she said, a “no party preference” voter may choose to cross over and vote one of the following party ballots: Democratic, American Independent, or Libertarian. Only “no party preference” voters are allowed to cross over, and for the June election, they can only choose one of the three options listed above. 

It is up to the parties to decide whether or not “no party preference” voters can cross over and vote their party ballot in a primary election, she added.

For the June 7 primary election, if a “no party preference” voter wanted to vote a Republican, Green Party, or Peace and Freedom party ballot, they would need to re-register, Sanders continued.

There are several ways available to register to vote or to change party registration: by going online to, or by filing a registration form (available at post offices, public libraries, and the Office of Elections, 3033 H Street, Room 20, Eureka).

To receive a voter registration form in the mail, contact the Office of Elections at 445-7481. Sanders said that people may call the County Office of Elections to find out their current party registration if they have forgotten.

California Top-Two Primaries

California Proposition 14 of June 2010 calls for top-two primaries for U.S. senator, U.S. Congress members, state senators, and state assembly members. Proposition 14 requires that candidates run in a single primary open to all registered voters, with the top two vote-getters meeting in a runoff. This means that in these races, the top two candidates with the most votes move on to the General Election, even if both have the same party preference, according to the voter information pamphlet.

In top-two elections voters can vote in the primary election for any candidate for a congressional or state elective office without regard to the political party affiliations of either the candidate or the voter. Candidates can choose whether or not to have their political party affiliation displayed on the ballot.