Hey Californians: Are You Registered with the Wrong Party?

Created: 17 January, 2024
Updated: 01 February, 2024
3 min read

Photo Credit: Phil Scroggs / Unsplash


California's primary elections will take place on March 5, 2024. While every state, legislative, and non-presidential federal election will be accessible to all voters, a voter's choices in the presidential primaries will be limited based on their party registration.

And for hundreds of thousands of voters, they may not know that the only presidential primary ballot they can receive will only have one candidate on it that may not align with their personal political views.

The largest and fastest growing third party in California is the American Independent Party (AIP). The latest voter registration numbers show that 825,981 voters are registered with the party -- up from 581,060 at this time in 2020.

However, the fastest growing segment of the voting population in the Golden State want to be independent of any political party, and research shows that the majority of voters registered with AIP are part of this independent surge.

But instead of registering No Party Preference, they were drawn to the "independent" in the AIP name, and did not realize they registered with a political party with a strict party platform.

IVN was first to publish this story 10 years ago after Don't Be AIPrl Fooled offered research that looked at voter registration and data on voter behavior.

Part of the group's findings examined the results of the 2012 presidential election. Most candidates running received an excess of their party's turnout, meaning their vote total was greater than the number of voters from their party who cast a ballot in the election.

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For example, 5,877,381 registered Democrats voted in the 2012 presidential election. President Barack Obama received 7,854,285 votes in the state. His vote total exceeded his party's turnout by 34%.

The same thing happened with Republican Mitt Romney, Libertarian Gary Johnson, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. 

The only candidate who did not receive an excess of their party's turnout was American Independent Party candidate Thomas Hoefling who received 276,042 fewer votes than his party's turnout -- which equaled a party vote deficit of -88%.

AIPrl Fooled claimed this is because most voters are registered with AIP by mistake.

This claim was further substantiated by research conducted by the LA Times in 2016.  The paper conducted a survey conducted among AIP members which found that nearly "three in four people did not realize they had joined the party."

The survey further found that nearly three-quarters of these voters identify as unaffiliated of any party.  One voter quoted by the LA Times said: “I just blew it. There were a number of choices. I just checked the box that said ‘independent.’”

Despite these reports, the numbers for AIP continue to climb, likely because many people see the "independent" in the name and think they are registering unaffiliated of any political party -- and today the number of registered party voters is closing in on a million.

Voters need to check their voter registration. If they are registered with any political party by mistake, they can only receive a presidential ballot for that party under California's semi-closed rules for the presidential primaries.

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They will have no other choices for president, and for the American Independent Party this means only one candidate. If a registered AIP voter wants to vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate, they will be denied this opportunity by county election workers.

California's semi-closed presidential primary system gives parties autonomy to decide candidate and voter participation. Party members are restricted to the ballot of their parties. Voters registered No Party Preference can request a crossover ballot for the Democratic, Libertarian, and American Independent Parties.

State voters have until February 20 to check and change their voter registration. The secretary of state's website offers county-by-county phone numbers that voters can call or websites they can go to check their voter registration status. 

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