I tried to vote today [May 7th 2019] in my local primary city elections in Westfield, Indiana. The poll workers asked me what party I was affiliated with, when I stated I wasn't a Republican they tried to turn me away from voting because all of the candidates were Republicans. After I pressured them they let me vote.

Is this normal for a city election? I researched my candidates and found the ones I most align with to vote for, why does it matter what party I say I am with. I don't get a say in my local government because I'm not of the party?

  • 8
    Primary elections often require party membership, but I don't suppose this was a primary? May 7 '19 at 12:52
  • 7
    @NuclearWang it is a primary.
    – user21748
    May 7 '19 at 16:20
  • 3
    I added the date and that it's a primary. Although people can look at the bottom of the question to see when "today" is, I think it's better to have it in the body in the question, as it's an important part. May 7 '19 at 19:25

According to this website, today is the Hamilton Co. Municipal Primary Election, the General Election is scheduled for November 5th, 2019.

On the surface, Indiana is an open primary state, so you do not have to register for a party in order to participate in that party's primary. However, there is a law IC 3-10-1-6 that reads like this:

A voter may vote at a primary election:
(1) if the voter, at the last general election, voted for a majority of the regular nominees of the political party holding the primary election; or
(2) if the voter did not vote at the last general election, but intends to vote at the next general election for a majority of the regular nominees of the political party holding the primary election; as long as the voter was registered as a voter at the last general election or has registered since then.

According to openprimaries.org, this is an attempt to encourage voters to vote along party lines:

  • Affiliation with a party is not required to vote in primaries. However, voters can only choose the primary ballot of the party who recieved a majority of their votes in the previous general election, and voter records are kept as public information.
  • If a voter did not vote in the last general election, they must "intend to vote for the majority of the nominees on their desired party's ballot." Voters can be challenged by another eligible voter on suspicion of perjury.
  • This system is an attempt to get voters to vote along party lines, but is not easily enforceable.

There is a procedure within the law (a bit further down from the link above, "Challenging voter") that allows other voters to challenge your primary participation, after which you would need to sign an affidavit or make a statement that you intend to follow this law.

All sources (e.g. FairVote) claim this law is hard if not impossible to enforce, but if the poll workers were even passingly aware of it then it is understandably confusing.

To address the part of your question about "why does it matter what party you say you are with," see the question What's the purpose of a closed primary?

  • 1
    How could the candidates a person voted for possibly be public information? Ballots are supposed to be secret.
    – jamesqf
    May 7 '19 at 17:45
  • 3
    @jamesqf Who you voted for is indeed secret, but which elections you participated in is not, I imagine this includes whether you cast a ballot in a Democratic or Republican primary in the last cycle (though I'm not 100% sure of that, and if I was it may be different in different jurisdictions). May 7 '19 at 17:48
  • 1
    @TED That would be a rational interpretation, but AFAIK there's no such requirement that laws be rational. I suppose someone could face charges if they are challenged, sign an affidavit, and then later on brag about how they "cheated" the system, but I would also think that prosecutors would have more pressing crimes to worry about. May 7 '19 at 20:47
  • 2
    Huh....no it really does say that. They actually based the election law on something for which no records can be kept. That's seriously right up there with the time they tried to legislate PI.
    – T.E.D.
    May 7 '19 at 21:01
  • 2
    @T.E.D. It's perfectly legitimate to pass laws like that, they can't be enforced easily, but they can be passed. I could imagine a case where someone posted on twitter about voting only democratic their entire lives, then voting in the republican primary, and that could be evidence against them.
    – David Rice
    May 7 '19 at 21:43

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