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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 12:40 pm | A Few Clouds 57º


California’s ‘Independent’ Voters May Be in for Election-Day Surprise

Recent survey finds nearly two-thirds of registered American Independent Party voters believed themselves to be actually independent

“Independent” California voters might be disappointed when they head to the polls June 7 to vote for Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump in the state’s presidential primaries.

Although the Republican primary is closed, meaning only registered Republicans can vote in the GOP contest, the Democratic primary is open to voters with no party preference — including independents.

But many self-proclaimed independents aren’t as, well, independent as they believe.

According to a recent survey by the Los Angeles Times, 73.1 percent of registered American Independent Party (AIP) members believed they had no party affiliation.

The survey found that the AIP, which was a California affiliate of the national Constitution Party before a 2008 split, is commonly checked off in the party-preference box on voter registration cards by voters who believe they’re declining any party membership.

Because the party comes first alphabetically in California, it appears first in that box, while “I Decline to State a Political Party” appears last.

Despite a neutral-sounding name, the AIP is considered ultraconservative; its platform includes opposition to both same-sex marriage and abortion rights and favors tight border control.

Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Joseph Holland said California has open contests for all elections except for president, in which only Republicans may vote in their party’s primary and only Democrats and unaffiliated voters in the Democratic primary.

Voters with no party preference — and all other registered voters — may participate in all other local and state elections, he told Noozhawk, because they are open competitions. Any voter can select a single candidate between all parties in elections for U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, and other statewide and state legislative offices.

During these elections’ primaries, however, a voter can only participate in their own registered party’s contest, although some allow unaffiliated voters to cast a ballot. Those who mistakenly filled in the bubble for the AIP are stuck with that party’s primary.

AIP-registered voters who mistakenly believe they’re unaffiliated with any party won’t be allowed to vote in the Democratic Party primary unless they re-register by May 23. Voters who want to participate in the Republican Party contest would have to re-register with that party by the same date.

Unaffiliated voters can vote in the Democratic primary as long as they specifically request a ballot.

There is a 15-day deadline ahead of all 2016 elections before which voters must re-register, Holland said. In 2017, voters will be able to re-register up to Election Day.

To do so, a new voter registration card has to be filled out, which can be done at the county elections office — 4440-A Calle Real in Santa Barbara; 511 E. Lakeside Parkway, Suite 134, in Santa Maria; or 401 E. Cypress St., Room 102, in Lompoc — as well as at other public establishments like post offices and the DMV.

A new card can be ordered by calling the county’s registrar of voters at 800.722.8683 or can be done online, where a voter’s registration status can be checked.

In the Los Angeles Times survey, half of respondents wanted to leave the American Independent Party or switch to another party upon learning their actual affiliation.

According to the Times, 3 percent of California’s 17.2 million registered voters are registered with the AIP — a number that has steadily, if not intentionally, grown over the years. Another 24 percent actually aren’t affiliated with a party, compared to 43 percent who are Democrats and 28 percent who are Republicans.

The AIP was established in 1967 and is currently based in Solano County. The party had its only notable nationwide campaign when then-Alabama Gov. George Wallace won five Southern states in the 1968 presidential election running on a segregationist platform.

According to data provided by Holland, as of April 12 there are 5,438 registered AIP members in Santa Barbara County and 47,730 voters who declined to state a party preference. Another 79,230 are Democrats and 56,862 are Republicans.

In 2012, 44.7 percent of the county’s 191,000 registered voters cast ballots in the presidential primary.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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