Should You Vote Today (Primary Day)?

And now for the post no one asked for: how Primary Day election law works. Primary Day is a selection and not an election. So should one vote tomorrow?

When a voter walks into the polls on Primary Day they are asked to to select a Republican, Democrat, or nonpartisan ballot. A nonpartisan ballot lets a person vote on referendum, school board, or other measures. A party ballot contains those PLUS inter-party races for public office.

Indiana has a closed primary. Republicans and Democrats are private organizations like all political entities. These private organizations select their candidates and not the public. Essentially, Primary Day is a selection and not an election. These private organizations ask taxpayers to fund their closed party business. The option of a primary is achieved by reaching 10% in the Secretary of State race. Automatic ballot access for all of the party’s candidates can be achieved with 2% in that same race.

In 2014, Libertarian Karl Tatgenhorst received 3.4% of the vote. This entitles the Libertarian Party of Indiana to four years of automatic ballot access, but not primary elections. Their candidates are selected at a closed convention for their membership. It is funded by convention attendees. A Hoosier voter will not find a Libertarian option on Primary Day. No other political party in Indiana has achieved ballot access or primary access.

Libertarians define their candidate selectors through convention delegates. Republicans and Democrats do it through election code. So when selecting a ballot tomorrow, a voter should pull a party ballot if:

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.

One could make the argument that knowingly pulling another party’s ballot falsely, as in Operation Chaos, could be considered a criminal act. Can it be a crime if no one is ever arrested or prosecuted for it?

There can be ramifications. Many “Operation Chaos” voters tried to run for leadership or precinct committeeman spots in 2012 and were ineligible because the law and parties considered them Democrats besides having a long record of voting as a Republican. Why?

Hoosiers don’t have party registration in Indiana. They register to vote, but not for a party. In the eyes of a political party and their candidates, one is a registered Republican or Democrat if they pull their ballot. Who they vote for is private, but what ballot is pulled on Primary Day is not. If a person votes in a party primary they should expect to receive party mailers! This information can be used against a candidate for inter-party or public office as a sign of lackluster party loyalty.

The Republicans and Democrats have crafted a huge data advantage using taxpayer funds to help keep their control of the political process. Combined with gerrymandering and straight-ticket voting, Indiana remains a two-party state with this ability to identify supporters.

Political data companies and campaigns take this data and resell it. Campaigns, special interest groups, and parties look at hard, soft, or independent voters when canvassing. If a person pulls a Republican ballot in every primary faithfully, they are considered a “hard R.” If a person pulls an R ballot occasionally, then they are a soft R. A person can switch parties.

As a former Libertarian Party of Indiana official, I haven’t selected a party ballot since 2008. I pulled an R ballot that year to vote for Ron Paul. I had voted in all three primaries and was considered a “hard R.” Since then, I’ve skipped Primary Day. I went once in the last 8 years to vote against a ballot measure and pulled a nonpartisan ballot.


Should a person vote in their primary? It depends on their principles, partisan beliefs, and  passion for or against a candidate. Or don’t vote. There is nothing wrong with skipping a primary.

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Chris Spangle is the publisher and editor of We Are Libertarians, a news site and podcast that covers national and Indiana politics from the libertarian perspective. Spangle previously worked in marketing for the Englehart Group on behalf of the Advocates for Self-Government. He also served as the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Indiana and producer of the Abdul in the Morning Show. He now works as the web director of a nationally syndicated morning show.

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