Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday attacked California's primary voting system, saying it could result in “locking out” millions of those registered as No Party Preference from voting in the Democratic primary on March 3.
Sanders’ campaign has focused on making sure the state’s more than 5 million No Party Preference voters know how to participate in the Democratic primary. There’s been a lot of confusion from voters about how that works.
Those NPP voters need to request a Democratic Party ballot, called a crossover ballot, to vote for any of the Democratic presidential candidates.
The Vermont senator criticized the process at a rally in Orange County on Friday morning, one day before the Nevada caucuses.
“Unfortunately, under the current NPP participation rules (in California), we risk locking out millions of young people, millions of young people of color, and many many other people who wanted to participate in the Democratic primary but may find it impossible for them to do so,” Sanders said.
The California Democratic Party did not respond to request for comment.
Some Sanders supporters said confusion over the rules prevented them from voting for the senator in California’s 2016 presidential primary. Democrat Hillary Clinton won that election.
Sam Mahood, a spokesperson for the California Secretary of State’s Office, said the rules for NPP voters are not new and are largely decided by the individual parties.
The Democratic Party has decided they will allow No Party Preference voters to participate in their presidential primary by requesting a crossover ballot either through their county elections office or at a vote center.
But the Republican Party has decided they will not allow NPP voters to participate unless they re-register as Republicans. The Peace and Freedom Party, along with the Green Party, also opted against allowing so-called ‘crossover’ voting.
Mahood added that Secretary of State Alex Padilla has worked aggressively to get the word out about how people in this undeclared category can vote for their preferred presidential candidate.
“We have supported legislation to clarify how voters can request crossover ballots, expand Same Day Voter Registration, and streamline[d] the process for changing party preference at a voting location,” Mahood said in an email. “This is in addition to the countless interviews we have done with media outlets across the state, the countless community events and meetings where the Secretary has spoken on the topic, and the outreach efforts of all 58 county elections officials.”
A new law allows voters for the first time this year to register or re-register on Election Day as long as they visit a local polling place or voting center.
The confusion over the state’s No Party Preference rules have led to false claims about Californians being blocked from voting for their preferred candidates. Sanders’ campaign held a press conference in Sacramento early this month explaining how the process works.
To register to vote, re-register or check your registration status, visit registertovote.ca.gov. A complete guide for how to vote for president in the California primary is at HowToVoteForPresident.sos.ca.gov.
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