With allegations of unsanctioned voter party affiliation changes running from Arizona to New York, it looks like California may have a problem with up to 500,000 voters who will not be eligible to vote in their primary. But in this case, it appears that most of those may be due to genuine error, and there is time to fix the problem if voters act now to check their registration and correct it if needed.
In other closed primary states, many voters who are independent or not affiliated with the Democratic or Republican party have been changing their registration to Democrat so they can vote in the Democratic primary. The majority of those independent voters are likely doing so to support Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is an independent candidate running for the Democratic nomination. On the other hand, some are so fed up with the traditional two parties that they are changing their affiliation to independent, or so they think.
In California, it appears many people are mistaking the American Independent Party for what the rest of the nation calls the independent party or no party affiliation at all, but this is far from correct in name or political agenda, and it looks like many voters have registered for the wrong party in error.
According to the LA Times, the American Independent Party, which comes first alphabetically in the list of parties to choose from, is the largest minor party in the state, according to voter registration rolls that show nearly 500,000 people register for that party. But many Independent voters who checked that box by mistake may be shocked to find out that the AIP is actually an ultra-conservative party that is anti-choice, anti-LGBT rights, and is emphatically supportive of Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the United States border.
While AIP bills itself as “the fastest growing political party in California,” the LA Times also reports that a huge number of members had no idea what they were signing up for, believing they were simply changing from one of the conventional two parties to being an independent voter. In fact, many celebrities have made the same mistake, including Demi Moore, Emma Stone, Sugar Ray Leonard, Kaley Cuoco, and even the son of California’s former GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Patrick Schwarzenegger. An LA Times poll shows over 50 percent of people registered in the party wanted to change their affiliation after hearing the party’s platform.
But the good news is, there’s time to change it before the June 7 Democratic primary in California. Voters have until May 23 to correct their registration. And according to CNN, the California primary for the Democratic side is actually only semi-closed, as opposed to close on the Republican side. What that means is that only Republicans can vote for the Republican primary candidates as is typical of a closed primary, but on the Democratic side, voters who are registered as Democrats or “no party preference” can vote on the Democratic nominees.
Make careful note of that, California voters: you can only be registered as Democrat or “no party preference if you want to vote in the Democratic primary June 7.
With all the problems in Arizona and New York with voters being purged from registration altogether or party affiliations being changed without their consent or knowledge, it’s advisable for any voter in any state that is closed or semi-closed for the primaries to check their registration and check it multiple times before the deadline to vote in the primary election. This is the only way to ensure that, short of blatant cheating and manipulation of registration and vote counts, you will be able to vote and your vote will be counted. With the Bernie Sanders campaign vowing to stay in it until the Democratic convention in July and with a pledged delegate count that is still separated by less than 250 delegates even after New York, California should still be in play when it comes time to vote in the primary elections.
The AIP denies any intentional deception in their choice of name, and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla will not take any action to request the party to modify the name to clarify the confusion.
“My office isn’t in the business of censoring or amending a political party’s name. It’s a very imperfect process.”
That may be the one thing that voters in all parties can agree on at this point.
[Photo by Ben Sklar/Getty Images]