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Independents: The Real Reason CA Wants to End DMV Automatic Registration?

Author: Chad Peace
Created: 10 October, 2018
Updated: 21 November, 2022
3 min read

The Sacramento Bee reported Tuesday: 

"Trying to get tens of thousands of voter registration errors under control, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla may temporarily halt a program that automatically registers voters through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

A freeze to the state’s Motor Voter program is 'certainly on the table,' Padilla said at a news conference on Tuesday."

You can add registering ineligible California residents to the state’s voter registration rolls to the multitude of problems facing the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla is now trying to untangle this mess created by the DMV and motor voter registration. Padilla is threatening to suspend the motor voter registration system until this issue is resolved. But the Independent Voter Project (IVP) is not sure this is the real reason for suspending the program.

A bigger problem for Padilla may be the overwhelming number of new voters who are abandoning the political parties and registering as No Party Preference (NPP).  Both political parties are feeling the impact of new voters turning their backs on traditional party registration.

Party officials blame the decline in partisan registration on the motor voter program where the default for new registrants is NPP. Could this be the real reason for suspending motor voter while the parties try to figure out how to attract new voters?

Padilla’s troubles with NPP voters go back to the 2016 presidential primary when NPP absentee voters received primary ballots that did not include the presidential candidates.

In 2015, IVP began urging the secretary of state to use his regulatory power to conduct an “open presidential primary” as required in the California Constitution. When Padilla declined to use his oversight powers, IVP took a resolution that would have fixed the problem to the legislature.

In a 2-3 vote, the resolution failed to get out of the Democratic-controlled committee. As a result, hundreds of thousands of NPP voters received ballots without any presidential candidates and another half a million mistakenly registered “American Independent” voters were locked out altogether.

IVP is offering a solution that would allow NPP voters to participate in the 2020 presidential primary, and will file a lawsuit to require the next presidential primary to be an “open primary” as the state constitution requires should the legislature choose not to act.

IVP Executive Director Dan Howle explains:

"IVP continues to support the rights of NPP voters to participate in every stage of the election process. The right to vote in the presidential primary is second only to the right to vote for president in the general election.

California has moved its 2020 primary election to March so the nation’s largest state can have a greater impact on who the nominees for president will be. California can preserve the party’s right to private association and give NPP voters the same opportunity to express their choice for presidential nominees. 

IVP is drafting new legislation that would require the secretary of state to provide every NPP voter with a ballot containing every presidential candidate. The parties would still have their party primary votes tallied to determine their delegates to the national conventions. Each party would have the option of counting the NPP votes cast for candidates representing a particular party in choosing their convention delegates. 

Keep in mind, presidential primaries don’t elect anyone; they are merely a means to narrow down the field of candidates. California can lead the way by allowing every voter, regardless of political preference, to participate in choosing the 2020 presidential candidates."

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