The short answer: it really doesn’t.
I’m sure at some point you were told to register with the party that best reflects your views, which is solid advice. But what about people who register in the opposite party to try and influence primaries? If they almost never have representatives in office, why do parties like “The Rent Is Too Damn High” even exist? It all depends on your state’s policies.
What is a primary? The dictionary defines a primary as “a preliminary election to appoint delegates to a party conference or to select the candidates for a principal, especially presidential, election.”
What is a closed primary? In a closed primary only voters registered for the party which is holding the primary may vote. i.e. Democrat or Republican. Twenty-two states impose some form of closed primary.
What are the downsides? Closed primaries exclude people registered to all other parties (even no party affiliation) from voting in what’s really the first round for deciding who becomes president. That means no matter what your political views are, you must pick a side if you’re passionate about who will be the next leader of your country.
What if I’m an Independent? Well, be careful registering in New York. A common misconception, especially among new voters, is that the registration form will have an “Independent” checkbox. It doesn’t, except for the Independence Party—which is the opposite of what a true independent wants. If you’re interested in remaining neutral (and don’t mind being excluded from primaries) make sure to check the “I do not want to enroll in a party” box.
The important things to remember:
1). Party affiliation (or lack of) does not equate to a vote for your party’s candidate. Every voter has the responsibility to vote for the candidate they feel is best, regardless of registered party.
2). Each party hosts a wide variety of political views. Don’t be scared off by stereotypes. Do your research and choose the one that’s best for you.
3). People on both ends of the political spectrum, and everywhere in between, feel misrepresented and unfairly judged by others. The easiest way to eliminate those fears? Get to know people first, not politics.