Difference Between Open and Closed Primary

Primary Election or Primaries exist in various countries depending upon the type of election that country follows. This election is most prevalent in America where voters get the chance to elect the candidate either in the general election, local election or by-election.


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Open vs Closed Primary

The difference between Open and Closed Primary is that in Open primary, voters belonging to affiliated parties can vote in the primary of any party. Whereas, in a Closed Primary, only those voters who are members of the affiliated party can vote in it. In an open primary, voters can cast their vote only one time. While in Closed Primary, they can vote as many times as voters want.

Open vs Closed Primary

Open Primary is a system of voting in which a registered voter of any affiliated party can give their vote to any party primary. In America, twenty-four states follow the open primary system.

People who are independent or doesn’t belong to any affiliated party cannot vote in a closed primary. But during the general elections, voters of closed primary can vote for another party.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonOpen PrimaryClosed Primary
Voter TypeIndependent VotersRegistered voters
ParticipationDiscourages voter participationEncourages Voter Participation
PromotesPromotes ‘cross over’ voting.Promotes party unity
RestrictionsAllows any votersRestricted to only members
States in the USA2414

What is Open Primary?

Open Primary elections, voters of any party or voters who don’t belong to any party is neutral can vote in the primary of that party. They can vote for both partisan as well as non-partisan members.

In America, there are twenty-four open primary states namely, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee,

Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. Voters of Open primary has the greatest advantage because they can vote secretly for another party primary.

It has the advantage that it promotes crossover voting in which voters of other parties can influence the voting of the primary party by giving the vote to the candidate who is weak so that the opposition parties can get the advantage of it.

What is Closed Primary?

Closed primary encourages the participation of voters. Because it is restricted to only registered voters. Closed primary members can only vote in the election of the primary party.

Closed primary encourages the unity of the party. Because of its closed system, it ensures that the nomination and selection of the candidates of the primary party are influenced by only the members registered.

But they can do only if they are registered on Election day. They can change their affiliation but until that they should remain registered with the initial party.

Main Differences Between Open and Closed Primary

  1. Open Primary doesn’t have any restrictions it allows everybody to cast vote. But they can vote only one time. Closed Primary puts restrictions on independent voters.
  2. In the USA, there are 24 Open Primary states which include semi-open as well. There are 14 Closed Primary states in the USA including semi-closed.


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/765107
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261379416300853
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