JUST IN: Hundreds of Thousands of California Voters May Be Unable to Vote

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Just when you thought the electoral mess of the primary cycle couldn’t get any worse, it did. Polling conducted at the direction of the Los Angeles Times found that up to around 350,000 California voters may be registered incorrectly. This massive mistake comes just over a month ahead of the May 23rd deadline for residents to change their registration for the state’s June 7 Primary.

This primary has been called the “most competitive in decades” for both major parties. And if a voter is not correctly registered with either party, he or she cannot vote.

The Republicans require that a prospective voter be registered with the GOP. Their party’s nomination race inches along as Donald Trump maintains his place barely shy of the majority of delegates required to win the nomination. A win for either Trump or US Senator Ted Cruz in California could set the favor of the race firmly towards one of the two men. California is by far the largest prize on either party’s calendar. And, on the Republican side, the race is very close. But if hundreds of thousands of voters don’t participate, an outcome unfavorable to the voters may occur, and the election could be thrown up in the air even more than it is already.

Nearly the same can be said for the Democratic side, although the effect is much more pointed. There is almost a direct correlation between turnout and US Senator Bernie Sanders’s vote share. States with high turnout equal wins for the Senator. The category of states that do not have closed primaries, like Michigan, often have higher turnout, at least percentage wise, than states that do, like California.

In addition, California Democrats allow voters registered as “No Party Affiliation” to vote in their primary, and this is where things get even iffier. In many cases, it is those who would lean towards no party affiliation who have been most energized by Sanders. Even apart from Sanders, these sorts of people often have every intention of voting Democratic and supporting Democratic causes.

The problem is that in a closed primary system, openings spring up all over the place in the paper trail of voter registration that can prevent the unknowledgable from voting. The almost 350,000 voters mentioned earlier are registered incorrectly because, instead of registering as they intended with “No Party Affiliation,” they registered with an actual party.

In 1967, the far right “American Independent Party,” or AIP, was created, under the auspices of the 1967 George Wallace presidential campaign. Formerly a national party, it now exists only in California. And it is the reason that so many California voters are in danger of not being able to vote, having been confused by the “independent” in the party’s name when they registered.

The closeness of this year’s race for the Presidency has blown open longstanding problems in a new way. The same newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, reported on the same problem with the AIP two years ago. And election officials reported dealing with misregistration back in 2008 as well. The problems are not only in California though, or in this situation. In Arizona, this year’s primary was so bad that both Democratic campaigns, as well as the Democratic National Convention, are suing the state of Arizona over the very serious mishaps.

Going forward, California voters only have just over a month to change their registration. They can do so online. There are many renewed efforts towards eliminating the electoral problems in America, and many of them center around the abolition of closed primaries.

Featured Image via John Keane on Flickr, Available Under a Creative Commons License.