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Californians register to vote in record numbers for Tuesday midterms

Californians register to vote in record numbers for Tuesday midterms In another extraordinary sign of voter enthusiasm, an all-time record o...

Californians register to vote in record numbers for Tuesday midterms

In another extraordinary sign of voter enthusiasm, an all-time record of nearly 19.7 million Californians have registered to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections, more than the number who were signed up to vote for the 2016 presidential election.

The figure, announced Friday by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, represents an increase of 1.9 million registered voters from the same time four years ago. And the percentage of eligible Californians who registered rose to 78 percent, which Padilla said was the highest percentage heading into a midterm election since Republican Earl Warren won the governor’s race in a landslide against Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s son in 1950.

“It’s almost unprecedented to see record registration in a midterm election year,” Padilla said at a news conference in San Francisco. “It’s clear to say Californians are fired up and ready to vote.”

And in a continuing trend, the new numbers suggest that Democrats and independent voters are more revved up than Republicans in the Golden State.

Friday’s figures showed the continued slide of Republican registration and rise of voters claiming no political party. Republican registration dropped to 24 percent from 28.1 percent four years ago, extending a plummet from 35.5 percent in 1998.

Those registering with no party preference climbed to 27.5 percent of registered voters from 23.3 percent four years ago, as a growing number of California voters shun political parties. Their numbers for the first time surpassed the number of GOP voters before the June primary.

Meanwhile, Democratic party registration inched up to 43.5 percent of California’s voters from 43.4 percent four years ago â€" though they have dropped from almost 45 percent in the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats have long dominated California politics, although they were a larger proportion of registered California voters during 1978’s Proposition 13 tax revolt than they are today. But the GOP slide since has been remarkable.

“The party has enormous problems, it’s safe to say,” said Bill Whalen, a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University who was a speechwriter for former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. State Republicans say the growth in unaffiliated voters shows dissatisfaction with Democrats.

While voting experts and advocates celebrated the overall number of registrations, they also cautioned that some of the surge is due to the automatic “motor voter” registrations that began in April when motorists who did not “opt out” were registered to vote as they got new driver licenses. The Secretary of State’s office reported in July that the motor voter program brought in 259,294 new voter registrations and 393,020 re-registrations in its first two and a half months.

“So you can’t say all of that increase is a sign of enthusiasm,” said Mindy Romero, founder of the California Civic Engagement Project at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy in Sacramento.

“When we look at record numbers, we have to remember that the population is also growing, so registration rate is most informative,” Romero said. “So really good to see that registration rate continue to grow â€" we went from 73 to 78 percent. But we’re not at a record.”

The critical issue is how many of those registered to vote will end up casting ballots. Eighteen other states already have surpassed their number of early ballots cast from four years ago. In California, the 3 million early ballots returned as of Nov. 1 is about two-thirds the total of advance ballots cast in 2014, according to the United States Elections Project at the University of Florida.

Santa Clara County had the highest percentage of registered voters in California declaring no party preference (33.7 percent), followed by San Francisco (32.7 percent) and San Diego (30.8 percent). San Mateo had 30.7 percent registered nonpartisan and Alameda County had 29.2 percent.

San Francisco had the highest percentage of registered Democrats (56.8 percent), and Modoc County in the northeast corner of the state had the highest percentage of registered Republicans (49.3 percent). The 10 other most Republican counties also were rural.

Contra Costa County had one of the biggest surges in both the number of registered voters (93,788) and percentage increase in registered voters (17.8 percent).

The state in 2016 began to provide information on voters’ ages, and the new numbers showed little change in the share of voters registering in each age group.

Romero saw encouraging signs in the percentage of younger voters who registered: 59.6 percent of eligible 18-24 year olds registered, up from 52 percent in 2014 â€" good for a midterm election but short of the 62 percent who registered in the 2016 presidential race.

Padilla was joined Friday by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and both reminded voters of their rights and protections as voters in California. Those rights include paid time off to vote on Election Day, casting provisional ballots if their names aren’t on the list at their polling place, and the right to cast a ballot after the time polls are supposed to close if they are waiting in line to cast a ballot.

Padilla and Becerra said California’s efforts to make voting easier provide a contrast to controversies in other states. In Georgia, for example, Democrats have criticized the state’s new “exact match” law requiring voter registration applications to mirror information on file with the state’s motor vehicle department or the Social Security Administration, calling it a form of voter suppression. Georgia’s Republican secretary of state said the law is aimed at eliminating voter fraud.

In North Dakota, there has been controversy over voter eligibility of Native Americans on reservations where their homes have no address numbers.

“It’s important that we all understand that voting is the cornerstone to our democracy, it’s what makes American democracy run,” Becerra said Friday. “We hope you’ll understand how important it is to vote … We’re going to do everything we can to ensure no one’s right to vote is blocked. No one is made to feel concerned about their right to vote.”

Source: Google News | Netizen 24 United States

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