California's Decline To State Voters Can Vote In The Democratic Primary...
by Todd Beeton, Tue Jan 29, 2008 at 09:46:34 AM EST
There's been some discussion on the left as to whether a partisan primary should be influenced by voters who don't belong to either party. No matter where you come down on that issue, in my mind, if election laws allow an open primary, we should be encouraging all voters to take advantage of the opportunity to make their voice heard in the Democratic primary, since, as Rick Jacobs puts it at The Huffington Post:
With literally hundreds of thousands of young first time voters getting into the fray this year, we have an ideal opportunity to get them to vote Democratic. And if they vote this time, as Governor Dean says, they'll likely vote for Democrats in the future.
In California, unaffiliated voters can register as Decline To State (or DTS.) This is an important voting bloc in California as their numbers are the only ones that are steadily rising. According to the California Secretary of State's website, DTS voters make up just over 19% of all registered voters in the state, double their percentage from 1992. During that same period, Democratic registration has dropped about 6% and Republican registration has dropped 5%. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows what incumbency rackets the state parties run.
Now, the reason these voters are important in terms of our primary on February 5th is that, while DTS voters are not allowed to vote in the Republican primary, they are permitted to vote in the Democratic primary. The problem is, DTS voters don't seem to know this, or at least they don't seem to know how to go about doing it. According to Jacobs, in the 2004 Democratic primary, 30% of DTS voters cast ballots but only 8% voted in the presidential primary.
How can this be? California law states that DTS voters may vote in the Dem primary but to do so must request a Democratic ballot. This may sound simple, but the thing is, if DTS voters don't make this request on Tuesday, they will be handed a non-partisan ballot, which will have everything but the presidential contest on it.
This is why The Courage Campaign, a California grassroots progressive organization (for whom I do part time work) is launching a DTS education campaign to reach 300,000 DTS voters over the coming week via telephone and e-mail to let them know that they are able to vote in the Democratic primary in California but they must ASK FOR A DEMOCRATIC BALLOT.
If you are a California DTS voter or who have friends or family who are, I highly recommend the Courage Campaign's excellent FAQ page with all the information you could possibly need to make your voice heard on Tuesday. It's no accident that it's the Democratic Party that allows DTS voters to vote in our primary, we are after all the party of inclusion, so I'm glad the Courage Campaign is launching this campaign to encourage participation in Tuesday's primary and to reduce the barriers that are in place that would prevent our being yet another state with off the charts Democratic primary turnout.