Can a United States political party kick out a member? For example, could the Republican Party have kicked Roy Moore out? I am not talking about affecting the ballot, but removing his registration as a Republican so he can't vote in primaries, for example.

4 Answers 4


Party membership has a number of different meanings in different contexts. Let's start with the broadest definition and work our way in:

  1. The ability to vote in a party's primary is generally governed by state law. Some states (California, Louisiana) don't even have two separate primaries in the first place, while other states (New York) not only have separate primaries but make it unusually difficult to switch parties. There are occasionally issues of freedom of association, but for the most part, the parties have no control over any of these processes. They certainly cannot expel individual voters from their primary.
  2. The party's name appearing on the ballot in the general election is also governed by state law. In some states (California again) candidates may declare whatever "party affiliation" they see fit, while other states (New York) do involve the parties in the process (and New York again has complicated rules about withdrawing or modifying a party's nomination too close to the election).
  3. Officeholders "caucusing with" each other is not restricted by party at all. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Angus King (I-ME) both caucus with the Democratic Party in the Senate. If they began consistently voting against Democratic objectives, it is likely that the Democratic Party would ask them to leave the caucus. This is unlikely to actually happen given the current level of polarization in Washington. It is unclear to me whether a caucus could forcibly expel a member, but since they are private(ish) organizations, I think they most likely could find a way to do it if it became necessary.
  4. The ability of officeholders to vote for party leadership (i.e. the "majority/minority leader of the Senate/House" and similar positions such as the whips) is tied to caucus membership. If a party purported to expel a member for voting the "wrong" way in one of these elections, it would likely be a major scandal.
    This is distinct from voting for the Speaker of the House or the President pro tempore of the Senate, which are both Constitutional roles voted on by the House or Senate at large (respectively). To become Speaker, the normal process is to win the party leadership vote first, then win the House-wide vote for Speaker. The President pro tempore is traditionally the most senior member of the majority party, although in theory the Senate could choose someone else by simple majority.
  5. The money provided to candidates running under a given party is determined by the national campaign committees for the Senate and House, for each party. As a data point, they did give money to Bernie Sanders in 2006 (and I imagine more recently), so independents are not categorically excluded. Independents can also help raise money for the national committees.
  • Thank you, these are the answers I was looking for. Nov 20, 2018 at 13:53

Q: Can an American Political Party kick out a member?

Not generally, however, the State of Connecticut has a law, CT Gen Stat § 9-61 (2012), that allows political parties to request removal of party affiliation for members under certain conditions.

Enrollment in any other political party or organization, active affiliation with any other political party or organization, knowingly being a candidate at any primary or caucus of any other party or political organization, or being a candidate for office under the designation of another party or organization, within a period of two years prior to the date of the notice as provided in section 9-60 shall be prima facie evidence that any elector committing any such act is not affiliated with, or in good faith a member of, and does not intend to support the principles or candidates of the party upon the enrollment list of which his name appears or in which his application for enrollment is pending; and, upon reasonable proof of the commission of any one of such acts, the name of any such elector may be stricken or excluded from such list and such erasure or exclusion shall be effective for a period of two years from the date of any such act. The same procedure as to notice to appear thereon, return and hearing shall be followed as provided in section 9-60. If, after full hearing, such registrar and chairman or party member or such deputy registrar and chairman or party member, as the case may be, find that the name of any such elector has been wrongfully or improperly stricken or excluded from such list, such name shall be forthwith placed upon the enrollment list.

An editorial, Law Allowing Political Party Officials To Kick Out Members Must Go, in the Hartford Courant, summarized a case where a party member was "kick out" of the party.

The issue has arisen in Brookfield. In 2013, Jane Miller, a registered Republican for 10 years and incumbent on the town board of education, wasn't renominated by the GOP for her seat. So she registered as unaffiliated to run for a vacant Democratic slot on the board of finance, but lost. She soon switched her affiliation back to Republican.

In 2015, the Republican registrar agreed with the local head of the GOP that Ms. Miller should lose her party affiliation — although the Republican town committee was against the move, according to Brookfield Patch. Two male Republicans who switched affiliation to run as Democrats escaped similar punishment.

The two GOP leaders are denying Ms. Miller the chance to vote in the coming presidential primary as a Republican. She has filed suit in federal court and is represented by former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, who says the courts have struck down similar laws in Rhode Island, Louisiana and Illinois.

(See also, Findings and Conclusions from the State Elections Enforcement Commission.)

Despite similar laws having been "struck down", Ms. Miller was not as fortunate in her Federal Court case.

U.S. Judge Alvin Thompson on Wednesday dismissed Jane Miller’s case against former Republican Registrar of Voters Thomas Dunkerton and former Chairman of the Republican Town Committee Matt Grimes, who removed her from the Republican party in 2015.

Ultimately, Ms. Miller "was reinstated as an enrolled Republican party member in Brookfield on July 19, 2016."


They can probably prevent someone from participating in internal party-management types of activities, but, no, anyone who wants to declare that they belong to a particular party, as a citizen-voter, can't be stopped from doing that.

For many states, you don't ever have to declare a party to vote in primaries, but you can only vote in one primary or the other. For some of these states, voters are prevented from voting in one primary, and then voting in a different party's primary or run-off (sometimes there is a two-step primary where the top two party candidates advance to a run-off election to determine the ultimate party candidate for a seat), to prevent/reduce cross-over meddling from people not really interested in the good of the party.

(May 29, 2017) Alabama has a new law that prohibits voters from switching their political party allegiance between a primary and subsequent runoff.Alabama does not require primary voters to register with a political party.

The crossover voting ban is an attempt to prevent voters of one political party from trying to meddle in another party’s runoff – although there is a dispute about how much that actually happens.

“If you vote in one party’s primary, you can’t switch to the other’s runoff,” state Sen. Tom Whatley, the sponsor of the bill.

WLTZ News: New Law Prohibits Switching Political Parties Between Certain (Alabama) Elections


A party cannot expel a member of that party, because every citizen has the right to run for and be elected to public office (pursuant to whatever laws for qualification exist). All a political party can do with an unpopular candidate is withdraw their support and their nomination. That alone is sufficient to tank a person's candidacy, but it's not a legal matter, only a political one.

If such a candidate is actually elected despite their party's support, he/she can be ejected from the house to which he/she was elected, pursuant to whatever methods are available to unseat an elected representative.

So to use Roy Moore's U.S. Senate run as an example...

Let's say the Republican party withdraws support for him, but the people of Alabama elect him anyway. At that point, he is a sitting U.S. Senator regardless of Republican support. However, Article 1, Section 5, paragraph 2 of the U.S. Constitution states:

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.

The Senate can, with a 66 vote majority, expel Roy Moore from their chamber, requiring Alabama to elect a different person, according to whatever laws they have for dealing with such a contingency. But at that point, Roy Moore is out.

  • I was going to make a similar answer, but then I saw that OP specifically stated it was talking about voting members/citizens, not candidates on the ballot. Nov 19, 2018 at 22:11
  • The people of the State of Alabama could also still decide to re-elect Roy Moore.
    – Viktor
    Nov 20, 2018 at 2:51
  • "A party cannot expel a member of that party" What you wrote afterwards is irrelevant to that claim (you wrote about if they can remove them from office). Can they take away their party membership? If they can't run as the candidate of one of the two parties they're as good as dead in the general election.
    – user378171
    Nov 1, 2020 at 22:01
  • Yes, the House can expel a member, but that is non-responsive to the question.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 8, 2022 at 22:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .