In U.S. politics, nonpartisan denotes an election in which the candidates do not declare or do not formally have a political party affiliation. It also denotes organizations that do not have formal alignment with a political party.
Nonpartisan elections are generally held for municipal and county offices, especially school board, and are also common in the election of judges. In some nonpartisan elections, it is common knowledge which candidates are members of and backed by which parties; in others, parties are almost wholly uninvolved and voters make choices with little or no regard to partisan considerations.
Some nonpartisan organizations are truly such; others are nominally nonpartisan but in fact are generally identifiable with one or the other of the two major national parties. For example, the National Rifle Association is technically a nonpartisan organization, but at the national level at least functions almost as an adjunct of the Republican Party. Conversely, the NAACP is technically a nonpartisan organization; however at the national level it has for many years functioned almost as a subsidiary organization to the Democratic Party. The same can be said of most right-to-life organizations with regard to the Republicans and of most U.S. labor unions with regard to the Democrats. On the other hand, the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C. think tank, has at various times in its history been headed by both identifiable Republicans as well as identifiable Democrats and hence would be judged by many to be nonpartisan in practice as well as in theory.