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Understanding New York Primaries

Updated: Sep 19, 2018

With last week's State & Local Primary having come and gone, a lot of questions were asked about New York's primaries.

New York State leaves whether a Primary is Closed, Open, or Modified to it's eight recognized parties.

  • Closed Primaries - open only to party members: Democratic, Republican, Conservative, Green, Working Families, and Women's Equality Parties

  • Modified Primaries - open to party members and other exceptions: Independence & Reform Parties

  • Open Primaries - open to anyone of any party: None

When people ask about New York's Closed Primaries, I often use this sports comparison when explaining the closed primaries. When a sports team needs to choose their team captain, which are often looked to for leadership, for morale, and to represent the team with referees during the contests; a team doesn't let their opposition choose their captain, they know who best represents them and they choose their own team leader. That's what party members do with a closed primary - they choose their representative in the General Election.

in the State's Modified Primaries, the Independence Party allows unaffiliated voters to participate in their statewide elections, but all other district and local primaries are closed. in New York State's smallest party, the Reform Party, they currently open all of their primaries to Reform Party members and ALL unaffiliated voters.

So for most of New York State's parties and primary contests, you must be enrolled in the party holding the primary in order to participate. When it comes to Federal races, like President, New York is one of 14 closed primary states. Of the rest of the states, 11 states have open primaries, 12 states have modified primaries, and 13 hold caucuses instead of primaries.


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