For the first time, more than one in five California voters doesn’t belong to a political party. A new state registration report says 20.2 percent of voters are registered declined to state. The actual number is probably a little higher as many political scientists agree that some voters who check off American Independent Party on their registration card actually intended to be independents with a small i.
Democrats account for 44.6 percent of the state’s registered voters and Republicans account for 30.8 percent.
The numbers are probably good news for supporters of Proposition 14 on the June 8 ballot, which would restore an open primary system for legislative, congressional and state constitutional offices.
Both parties already allow decline-to-state voters to cast primary ballots (although independents are barred from the Republican presidential primary). However, independent voters much choose to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary; they can’t vote GOP for Congress, then Democratic for governor or some other office.
Proposition 14 would create a system similar to elections for city council, school board, county supervisor, sheriff and so forth: The top two finishers, regardless of their party affiliation, would advance to the general election. It could be two Democrats in a liberal area like the North Bay or two Republicans in Orange County, but it could threaten ideologues if, for example, Republicans and moderate Democrats formed a coalition to elect a more moderate candidate, or vice versa in a GOP district.
Critics say it would lock out minor party candidates, but they’ve had no success in the current system either. Of greater concern, however, it would prohibit write-in campaigns. They’re rare but they’re an important outlet.
Other nuggets from the voter registration report:
- Sonoma County has the sixth-highest concentration of registered Democrats in the state, with 52.53 percent; eight of the top 10 are in Northern California (Imperial and Los Angeles are the only exceptions).
- Lake County ranks 10th in the decline-to-state category with 21.06 percent (San Francisco is first with 29.38 percent). Sonoma County has 19.47 percent and Mendocino 21.01 percent.
- Mendocino County has the biggest concentration of Greens (3.93 percent) and Peace and Freedom (0.54).
- Modoc County has the highest concentration of Republican voters at 49.87 percent; Sonoma County ranks 53rd among the 58 counties with 22.98 percent. Mendocino has 22.67 percent and Lake 29.7 percent.
— Jim Sweeney