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In primary elections in the United States, crossover voting refers to a behavior in which voters cast ballots for a party with which they are not traditionally affiliated. Even in the instance of closed primary elections, in which voters are required to receive a ballot matching their own political party, crossover voting may still take place, but requires the additional step of voters to change their political affiliation ahead of the primary election.
Insurance-purposed crossovers occur when voters see the results of their own party's primary as a foregone conclusion; for example, a candidate belonging to their own party is greatly favored or running unopposed, so their best strategy is to cast a ballot for an opposing party. Two types of insurance-purposed crossover voters exist:
- "Second Best" voters cross over to vote for an opposing candidate they would prefer over other options in the opposing party, should their own party's candidate lose in the general election. They may be attempting to prevent a candidate they dislike in the opposing party from reaching the general election.
- "Positive Strategic" voters are unhappy their own party's leading candidate, and do not see their preferred alternative as viable. Thus, they cross over to vote for a candidate who they think will stand a chance in the general election.
"Raiders" have the intention of sabotaging an opposing party's primary by voting for an opposing candidate they do not see as standing a chance against their preferred candidate.
In some instances, crossover voting may occur when voters feel the grass is greener on the other side. These crossover voters are referred to as "True Supporters", and are not casting their votes for purposes of insurance or sabotage.
In some instances, crossover voting may also occur because no candidate registered with a voter's relevant party filed; therefore if they prefer not to abstain from voting, they must back a candidate from a party other than their own. This form of crossover voting has been referred to as "No Option".
- John M. Sides; Jonathan Cohen; Jack Citrin (31 December 1999). "The Causes and Consequences of Crossover Voting in the 1998 California Elections" (PDF). Working Papers. University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
- "Congressional and Presidential Primaries: Open, Closed, Semi-Closed, and "Top Two"". The Center for Voting and Democracy. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
- R. Michael Alvarez; Jonathan Nagler (1999). "Analysis of Crossover and Strategic Voting" (PDF). Society for Political Methodology (American Political Science Association; Washington University in St. Louis). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 June 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
- Gary D. Wekkin (April 1991). "Why Crossover Voters Are Not "Mischievous Voters": The Segmented Partisanship Hypothesis". American Politics Research. 19 (2): 229–247. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
- Brian J. Gaines; Wendy K. Tam Cho; Bruce E. Cain; Elisabeth Gerber. "Crossover Voting Before the Blanket: Primaries Versus Parties in California History" (PDF). University of California Press. Retrieved 21 April 2014.