Since 1997, California’s “No Party Preference” voter registration has climbed 11.9 points to 20.9 percent. Another 6.8 percent of voters claim allegiance to smaller third parties, such as the American Independent, Green, Peace and Freedom, Americans Elect, and the Libertarian Party, leaving voters not affiliated with a major party at 27.7 percent.
The growing discontent with Congress among Americans is well known and documented, and citizens are responding by shifting away from supporting one party or one ideology. In California, the shift to “No Party Preference” has been a consistent trend for decades.
Reasons for identifying outside the standard two party system are as widespread and diverse as the independent voters themselves, leaving Republicans and Democrats to scramble around looking for a means to appease this portion of the electorate. Even though the population is frustrated about the stalemate in Congress, there are often no other viable options outside of the standard two parties for the public to turn to.According to a Gallup poll, Congress recently received a near all-time low 13 percent approval rating among Americans. However, roughly 46 percent of Americans approve of their own congressman. The inability for many Americans to link their congressman’s role within the larger context of the House of Representatives is one major way Congress falls victim to party politics.
However, the nonpartisan top-two primary system, established by California’s Proposition 14 in June 2010, allows voters to vote for any candidate on a single ballot and the top two candidates with the most votes proceed, regardless of party affiliation. Proponents believe this proposition will reduce the polarization of candidates as they will have to look beyond their base for support.
“That means that candidates in California can no longer count on securing their own party’s base as a formula for making it to a general election,” The Christian Science Monitor reports. “That change in the election rules encourages reaching beyond party lines and consensus-building, some analysts say.”
Political scientist Lara Brown even claims, “[it] could revolutionize California’s politics and usher in a new electoral movement in the country.”
Here lies the silver lining for independent voters. The upcoming Californian primary elections offer voters a chance to effectively respond to the discontent seen in the House, and to elect a candidate who will support policies based on the likelihood of bettering the nation, rather than succumb to party affiliation.