How Do Independents Vote On Super Tuesday? Certain Primaries Offer Voters An Important Choice

Super Tuesday is exciting; it's also a chaotic mess. With 12 states plus American Samoa all holding contests on the same day, there's a lot to keep track of. Some states hold caucuses and others hold primaries; some are only holding Democratic or Republican contests; some of the elections are open and some are closed. That last distinction is particularly important for Independent voters and those registered as affiliated with third parties. In some Super Tuesday states, people who aren't registered in a major party can still vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary (but not both!); in others, they're out of luck. Whether or not Independents can vote on Super Tuesday, then, depends on where they live.

In a closed primary or caucus, only voters who have registered with either the Democratic or Republican party by the state's deadline are allowed to participate. On Super Tuesday, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma are holding closed contests, according to Ballotpedia. Open primaries and caucuses allow anyone registered to vote by the state's deadline to vote in either party's contest, regardless of their party affiliation (or lack thereof). Most Super Tuesday spots have open elections: Virginia, Vermont, Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Georgia, American Samoa, and Alabama.

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You can also vote in the Massachusetts primaries if you're not affiliated with either major party, although the state's elections are technically not "open," but "mixed." That's because voters who are registered with one of the two major parties can only vote in the primary of the party with which they are affiliated. But as far as Independents and third-party-affiliated voters are concerned, it's an open contest.

People who would like to vote in Minnesota are extra lucky, according to VoteSmart — unlike any other Super Tuesday state, Minnesota allows for same-day voter registration. That means you don't even need to be registered to vote yet. You can just show up to a polling location and register there (affiliated with a party or not — remember, Minnesota has an open primary!).

Open primaries and caucuses are becoming increasingly relevant as fewer and fewer Americans identify with either major party. A Gallup poll from 2014 found that 43 percent of Americans identify as Independent, which is more than the number identifying as either Democrat (30 percent) or Republican (26 percent). If you figured out you can vote on Super Tuesday but aren't sure where to go, check out Rock the Vote's Information Lookup, which will help you find your nearest polling location. Don't miss out!

Believe it or not, both primaries and caucuses can be laugh-out-loud hilarious. Don't believe us? Have a listen to Bustle's "The Chat Room" podcast...

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