Primary vs. General Elections
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.
A 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.
A General Election is the election in which all voters make the final choice from among the party nominees and the independent candidates for a specific office.
Not all elected offices are nominated by party.
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 independent candidates.
Individuals who receive the most votes in any General Election are elected with the powers and responsibilities granted to their office by law.
Voting at a Primary Election
In Tennessee, citizens register to vote. No declaration of party affiliation is required at the time of registration since Tennessee does not register by party. 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 whether 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 their party.
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 consist of Democratic candidates only or Republican candidates only for each office included in the Primary Election.
Offices with a Mandatory Primary Election
President, Governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, State Senate and State Representative.
What about county offices and 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. The Scott County Election Commission has no authority or right to call a county primary election for either party (nor does Scott County's Board of Commissioners).
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 city office).
Candidates for Federal, State, County or Municipal Office should contact the Scott County Election Commission Office at (423) 663-3210 to inquire about nominating procedures, qualifications and qualifying deadlines for various elected offices.