New Democracy Maps

Partisanship of State Primary Election Systems

State primary elections determine the candidates that will be on the ballot for the general election. States primary election systems vary widely, with some elections only open to voters registered with a particular party, while other states allow non-affiliated voters to participate as well. While most state primary systems are partisan, a few states have adopted nonpartisan primaries, in which voters cast a ballot in a single primary with all candidates on the same ballot. Nonpartisan primary states receive the highest score on our map as evidence suggests these systems increase voter turnout as well as produce more competitive and less polarized elections. Closed primary states receive the lowest score as these systems completely exclude millions of Independent and unaffiliated voters from participating in primary elections. Note: This map tracks systems used for state level and congressional primaries. Some states use different rules for presidential primaries.
United States Map
Washington New York U.S. Virgin Islands Puerto Rico Guam Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands American Samoa New Hampshire Vermont Virginia Pennsylvania New York Maine West Virginia Ohio Kentucky Indiana Michigan Illinois Wisconsin North Carolina South Carolina Tennessee Georgia Florida Mississippi Missouri Arkansas Louisiana Iowa Minnesota Oklahoma Kansas Nebraska South Dakota North Dakota Texas 33 Colorado Wyoming Montana Idaho Arizona Utah Nevada Oregon California Hawaii Alaska Massachusetts Rhode Island Connecticut New Jersey Delaware Maryland Washington D.C. New Hampshire Vermont
  • State primary system is nonpartisan (everyone votes in a single primary) (4 states)
  • State primary system is open to Independents (all voters can choose which primary to vote in without registering with a party) (16 states)
  • State primary system is semi-open (only independent voters can choose which primary to vote in) (15 states)
  • State primary system is semi-closed (state law allows political parties to choose which voters can participate in primaries) (2 states)
  • State primary system is closed (voters must be registered with a political party to participate in that primary) (13 states + D.C.)
Recommended citation: Movement Advancement Project. "Partisanship of State Primary Election Systems." Accessed 03/02/2024.

Breakdown by Population

*Note: These percentages reflect the voting-eligible population, as reported by the United States Election Project.


15 % of voting-eligible population lives in states that primary system is nonpartisan


30 % of voting-eligible population lives in states that primary system is open to Independents


25 % of voting-eligible population lives in states that primary system is semi-open


2 % of voting-eligible population lives in states that primary system is semi-closed


28 % of voting-eligible population lives in states that primary system is completely closed to Independents

Data current as of 02/28/2024
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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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