The Name Matters for American Independent Voters

What’s In a Name?

Few character traits are as exalted as independence, but for those Californians who’ve registered to vote as members of the American Independent Party, the path to the ballot box is fraught with serious complications. The American Independent Party is an actual political party — embracing an extreme right-wing platform — that dates back at least to 1968 when former Alabama governor and ardent segregationist George Wallace represented the party in his unsuccessful bid for president.

The Los Angeles Times has recently reported that many voters mistakenly registered as American Independents on the false assumption it was synonymous with “decline to state” or “no party preference.” It is neither.

In Santa Barbara County, there are 5,438 voters registered to the American Independent Party. Under California voting rules, voters registered to a specific party are allowed to cast ballots only for candidates representing that party. By contrast, those who register under “no party preference” are allowed to “cross over” and cast ballots in favor of candidates representing the Democratic, Libertarian, and American Independent parties. They are not allowed, however, to cast ballots for candidates representing the Republican, Green, and Peace & Freedom parties unless they re-register as one of the above.

As of April 12, Santa Barbara County had 47,720 “No Party Preference” registrants. The Republicans, by contrast, had 56,862 and the Democrats 79,230. For those hoping to switch party registration, the deadline is May 23.

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