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Differences Between Primary Elections &
Primary Election Cycle
Counties with a County Primary will have a
May Election (Tuesday). The
individuals that obtain the most votes
during the County Primary Election will
advance to the County General Election to
run against the other party’s nominee and
any independents that qualified for that
General Election will be held in August. For a county office,
and independent candidates all qualify at
the same time.
The State Primary for the Office of
Governor, U.S. Senate,
U.S. Congress, State Senate, & State
Representative will be in August.
Tuesday in November is the State
General Election Date for the offices on the
August State Primary Ballot.
Candidates for Federal, State, County or
Municipal Office should contact their local
County Election Office to inquire about
nominating procedures, qualifications and
qualifying deadlines for various elected
Primary Election is a nominating
election. Winning the party’s
nomination is the first step in the
election process. It narrows the
field in a political party to one
individual for a specific office.
General Election is the election
in which all voters make the final
choice from among the party nominees
and the independent candidates for a
**Not all elected offices are
nominated by party**
First time voters and voters new to our
state are often confused by what is expected
of them at a Primary Election and what is
expected of them at a General Election.
Tennessee has two recognized parties under
current state law: the Democratic Party and
the Republican Party.
When a candidate is successful in a
Primary Election they advance to the
General Election for their particular
office. For example: in a Primary
Election for the Office of Governor, the
Democrats run against Democrats and the
Republicans run against Republicans. The
successful Democratic nominee and the
successful Republican nominee for Governor
would advance to the General Election
to face each other and any
Individuals who are the top vote getter in
any General Election are elected with the
powers and responsibilities granted to their
office by law.
VOTING AT A PRIMARY ELECTION
Tennessee, citizens register to vote.
No declaration of
party affiliation is required at the time of
registration. Tennessee does not register by
All legally registered voters in Tennessee
are issued a “Voter Registration Card” by
their county election office. No party
affiliation appears on the voter’s card.
When a voter appears to vote during any
Primary Election they must declare if they
wish to vote in the Democratic Primary or
the Republican Primary.
The voter’s declaration is recorded on a
signed Application for Ballot. The ballot
issued to the voter for the Primary Election
will have only the names of candidates in
the party that the voter is affiliating with
on that Election Day.
When two Primary Elections are being
conducted on the same date (Presidential
Preference and County Primary), the voter is
prohibited from voting in different primary
elections on the same day (one political
party locally and the other political party
nationally). Their ballot will be a
Democratic Ballot all the way up and down
the ballot or it will be a Republican Ballot
all the way up and down the ballot.
Offices with a
Mandatory Primary Election
President, Governor, U.S. Senate, U.S.
Congress, State Senate and State
What about County
Offices & Primaries?
Each of your county’s two Political Parties
has the right to call a County Primary
Election for any or all of the County
Offices elected. Local County
Election Offices have no authority or right
to call a county primary election for either
party (nor do local county commissions).
School Board and City Offices are not
elected by political party affiliation in
the State of Tennessee (unless a city
charter expressly permits a primary for a