California Independents Invited to Party-Crash the 2020 Primary

Three Political Parties Are Allowing ‘No Party Preference’ Voters to Cast Ballots in Their Primary Next March

Santa Barbara County's elections apparatus will be ready for the presidential primary on March 3, 2020. | Credit: Paul Wellman

More Californians registered as having “no party preference” this year than at any other time since 2009, an 8 percent increase of more than two million people, but it’s a choice that can sideline them during a presidential race. “No party preference” voters must specifically request a “cross-over” ballot if they want to vote for president, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced last week. “California voters have become increasingly accustomed to voting for the candidates of their choice regardless of political party preference,” he said. “The Presidential Primary, however, remains the exception.”

For the 5.6 million Californians who prefer not to state a party, three of the parties are allowing them to vote in their primary on March 3, 2020: Democratic, Libertarian, and American Independent. The county election office will send “no party” voters a postcard before the election, asking if they’d like to select one of the three parties allowing a cross-over vote. In 2016, voters confused the far-right American Independent Party with being an independent — small “i” voter, aka a “no party preference” voter — when they registered.

About 27 percent of Santa Barbara County’s 218,000 registered voters — or 60,238 people — claimed to have no party preference. About 42 percent are Democrats; about 25 percent are Republicans. The only other sizeable constituency is the 2.5 percent who belong to the American Independent Party, outstripping Greens (1.1 percent), Libertarians (0.8 percent), Peace & Freedom (0.2 percent), Other (0.6 percent), and the 860 people who somehow managed to register as “unknown.”

The party ambivalence is not necessarily reflected in either Republican or Democrat numbers compiled by the Secretary of State’s Office since 2009: Democrats gained about 900,000 registrants, while Republicans lost about 700,000. Total registered voters, however, increased by about 2.6 million Californians, a good number of whom seem to be party-less.

Padilla urged voters to verify their registration at his office’s website VoterStatus.sos.ca.gov. “If any voter wishes to change their political party, they can do so easily by re-registering at RegisterToVote.ca.gov,” he suggested.

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