One of my famous (to those who know me) arguments on social media. I live in Florida, and this friend of a friend is insisting I can vote in a Florida primary as an independent, contrary to literally everything I've read from everyone except him. He also states that they can't stop me from voting, and I don't think that's true.

But I also don't know what prevents me from doing so. Is my vote just invalid, do I get dragged away in handcuffs for attempted voter fraud, or do they actually have to accept my heroic efforts and count my vote? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • So you are an independent, and sneaking into a closed primary to vote to disrupt the leading candidate. Is that the question?
    – user9790
    Nov 3, 2016 at 22:08
  • @KDog Well, more along the line of, I was complaining that as an Independent, I couldn't vote in the primaries, to which somebody insisted that of course I can, they can't stop me... I'm wondering... can they stop me? Physically? If I was breaking the law, then definitely. If I was breaking their party rules, maybe not. Maybe they could just ignore me. Nov 3, 2016 at 22:21
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    Generally, you can't cast a vote without being handed a ballot or (for electronic machines) a keycard by election officials. They can stop you by not giving you a ballot.
    – cpast
    Nov 3, 2016 at 22:25
  • @cpast I would agree with you, but this fellow was awfully insistent. Said he'd written articles about it and whatnot, sounded pretty confident... I just didn't see how it was possible. So... I thought I'd ask. Maybe they really can't stop you from voting. Maybe they just ignore your ballot. Or maybe you're committing some sort of voter fraud. I just don't know. Nov 3, 2016 at 22:34
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    @KDog In closed primary states (at least the ones I know about), your affiliation is part of your voter registration. When officials check that you're on the list of people for their precinct, they also check your registered party affiliation. I know that in Maryland you can claim that you're a different party, but then you have to cast a provisional ballot (which lets you vote now and argue party affiliation later).
    – cpast
    Nov 3, 2016 at 22:50

2 Answers 2


If you cast a vote in a closed primary without being properly registered, yes, you would have committed a crime. This would be difficult in most primaries though, as they control access to the ballots or voting machines. For example, in two states where I resided, the process is to go up to someone who looks up your name on a list, possibly show ID, they give you a two part receipt, and a different person takes half the receipt, escorts you to the election machine, and activates it so that you can vote. So you can't just grab an empty machine and vote.

Now in a caucus, this seems more feasible. In Iowa, the process is to control entry to the room. Since everyone votes multiple times and at the same time as everyone else, it is more difficult to control individuals. So if you can bypass the entry check and enter the room in such a way that they didn't notice, you might be able to manage it. They do sanity checks though. For example, there should be no more people at the caucus than signed up for entry. So you need someone else to leave the caucus so that you can enter or you need to pretend to be a valid voter at the entry point. And yes, that would be illegal and there'd be many witnesses.

There was a previous question about voting twice, once for a candidate from each party.

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    Some kind of fraud? Some kind of trespass? Identity theft? How is "a crime" punished? By what statute?
    – user9389
    Nov 4, 2016 at 15:20
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    @notstoreboughtdirt IANAL, but my guess would be something in Florida Title IX Chapter 104, either 104.011, 104.041 or 104.16 depending on the actual circumstances of how the vote was cast (False swearing; submission of false voter registration information, Fraud in connection with casting vote, Voting fraudulent ballot, respectively). All of which are 3rd degree felonies and punishable by either 5 years in prison and/or $5,000 fine, or 10 years in prison in the case of habitual offenders (775.082, 775.083, 775.084)
    – user5155
    Nov 4, 2016 at 16:08

Brythan's answer is correct, you can only vote in a closed primary system in the primary for the party that you are actually registered for. In practice, though, you could choose to participate in one of the primaries if you really wanted to.

Even though you are registered as an Independent now, you could always update your registration at any point to affiliate yourself with a party making you eligible to vote in that party's primary. Once the primary is over, you can update your registration again to reflect your Independent status (or just skip this step and update it again the next time a primary rolls around where you want to vote in a different party). Looking at this page, the registration deadline for the Florida primary was February 16th, 2016, so if you updated your registration information prior to that date you could participate in a primary without breaking any laws.

All party changes for a primary election must be made by the registration deadline which is 29 days before the primary election. For a general election, a party change can be made at any time.

Perhaps this is what your friend meant, perhaps not.

See also this question for some of the arguments why parties sometimes choose to hold a closed primary.

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