Why can't I register with multiple political parties (at the same time)?

I've searched the web, read forums, sent emails, made phone calls, and I cannot find a satisfactory answer to this question. The response I usually get is "Why would you want to?". I feel that my personal reasons are unimportant. Unless there is a good reason to restrict it, why restrict it?

I don't fully identify with any established party. For example, I see good and bad things about the ideologies of the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties (and other parties, but these are the main ones I'm interested in), but don't feel fully "at one" with any of them.

When the Democratic primaries roll around, I'd like to be able to have a say in who that party ends up nominating. Same with Republican primaries. Same with any other primaries (if they have them). Some say this violates the "one person, one vote" rule. I say it does not. I still only have one vote, but it's per party that I'm registered with.

I know it's possible in some states to vote "cross-party" but as far as I know (again I'm not the most politically-knowledgeable person) once you've cast your vote in one party's primary, you can't vote in another's primary. Or can you? Regardless, where I live (Arizona) I know that's not allowed.

I also know that I could (if the timing is right) register with party A, vote in their primary, then register with party B, vote in their primary, etc. But this is ridiculous. And if the timing isn't right (primaries are held too close together) not possible.

I realize I probably have a lot of misconceptions here, but that's why I'm posting this question.

  • 1
    It's funny. My first reaction was "why would you want to?" Nov 27 '14 at 15:38
  • One vote per party you're registered with is more than one man, one vote. If you are registered with three parties, it's one man, three votes, which is more than a person registered with fewer parties.
    – Publius
    Nov 27 '14 at 19:27
  • 4
    But isn't the purpose of a party's primary election for the party to decide who to nominate for the general election? In the non-political world, I could be a member of multiple similar (for example) clubs. Say each club wants to nominate a representative to run in some inter-club race. As a member of club "A", I would vote for the person who I felt best represented that club. Then as a member of club "B", I would vote for the person who I felt best represented club "B", and so on. Aren't the primaries similar to this? They are specific to each party? Unrelated to the general election?
    – paulv
    Nov 27 '14 at 19:57
  • Read here politics.stackexchange.com/questions/93/…
    – Kennah
    Nov 27 '14 at 21:42
  • So - basically (in the US) membership in political parties is unrelated from which party you are affiliated with (for voting purposes), and you can only be affiliated with one party at a time (or none). So, I could be an official member of both party "A" and party "B", but as far as voting goes, that doesn't really matter. It boils down to the fact that we elect candidates in primaries based on the popular vote and not "per party". I think I get it. I don't agree with it, but I get it. Thanks.
    – paulv
    Nov 28 '14 at 15:20

Parties control the rules for their own primary elections, subject to state law.

In your particular case, it doesn't matter. Arizona allows people without a party to vote, so just don't declare one on your registration.

Party Affiliation: No party registration required for primary voting

You are going to have 50 different answers if you want a more general answer. Voting laws are controlled by the states, except in the few cases they conflict with federal law. Open Primaries and Closed Primaries have both had constitutional challenges with differing results.

  • 1
    Does that mean that in Arizona, since I am not registered with any party, I can vote in party A's primary and then later party B's primary? If not, then basically whoever I vote for first becomes my de facto party affiliation, which means I basically have to choose one party anyway.
    – paulv
    Nov 27 '14 at 20:14
  • 3
    @paulv - You can choose whose ballot to use, but you still only get one party's ballot. (§16-467).
    – Bobson
    Dec 5 '14 at 16:44

You post a very interesting question here, without going into too much detail. Its not legally wrong to be a member of multiple political parties (think of political parties as membership organisations) unless within the rules, regulations and code of conduct of said parties there is a clause preventing you from joining other parties (Some political parties do have this).

  • 1
    See that makes sense to me. I don't even know why voter registration even asks for a party. Seems to me that registering to vote is a separate process from becoming a member of any political party. I guess I'm saying I see parties as independent "groups" and as long as I abide by the rules within each group, I don't see a problem.
    – paulv
    Nov 27 '14 at 20:01
  • 1
    @paulv Voter registration asks for a party, in part, to facilitate a government run political primary process that was historically a closed primary process even though it has been reformed in some states, and in part, to facilitate the redistricting process and to make it easier for political parties to identify and reach out to prospective supporters.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 24 '17 at 0:07
  1. Most party rules insert a clause that all electors in the primary will support the candidate in the general election. This is to prevent sour grapes if "your candidate" doesn't win.

    Obviously it isn't enforceable, but it is a gentleman's agreement sort of thing. If you are supporting candidates in both parties, you are ipso facto going to be breaking your "word" to one of them.

    I certainly wouldn't want you voting for a candidate knowing you won't hold to your word.

  2. Finally, imagine if several people did this. Want to know what they'd do? Pick the candidate they want in one party, and choose the weakest candidate in the other. That is usually considered bad behavior on either side. These may not be "laws" but they are common courtesy. Democracy works best when each side is allowed to put its best foot forward. Anything less is just dirty pool.

Regardless of whether or not you "can," you really shouldn't.

  • My reasoning is that I'd like to support the best candidate (to my eyes anyway) within each party. I wouldn't vote for the weakest in one and the strongest in my "preferred" party. I don't vote based on party. I vote based on the strengths of the candidate. I get what you are saying, I just find that line of thinking based more on fear than reason. A strong candidate is a strong candidate. A weak one is a weak one.
    – paulv
    Nov 27 '14 at 20:09
  • 2
    You may have good motives, but how do the parties differentiate between you and those with bad motives? Nov 28 '14 at 4:39
  • -1: look at your answer in meta, and compare the last sentences of both. Nov 30 '14 at 13:37
  • 1
    @J.C.Leitão Answers are different than questions. This is the standard response you'd get if you were to ask any party's committee chair. I know. I've been a delegate to my party's caucus before, and this was explicitly announced. I'm okay leaving a -2 answer out there, because I'm right :) Dec 4 '14 at 16:16
  • 1
    I am not aware of any state political party that has a requirement that rank and file members vote a party-line slate in the general election and the general election secret ballot rules are specifically designed to make it impossible to impose such a requirement.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 24 '17 at 0:09

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