California's Decline To State Voters Can Vote In The Democratic Primary...

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.

Tags: 2008 election, california democratic primary, decline to state (all tags)

Comments

8 Comments

Re: California's Decline To State Voters Can Vote

If ever a title cried out for quotation marks (around "decline to state") this is it.

by verasoie 2008-01-29 09:52AM | 0 recs
Re: California's Decline To State Voters Can Vote

What about direct mail, too? Send each DTS voter a ballot in the mail, along with some literature.

The Courage Campaign could use the opportunity to partner up with all three campaigns (i.e., have the camapigns pay for it).

by wolff109 2008-01-29 10:00AM | 0 recs
Re: California's Decline To State Voters Can Vote

hmm.

I would expect that they go into the polling station knowing who they are gonna vote for and the party.

Maybe they would know that of they don't find the name of their candidate on the sheet they would ask why.

Just a thought.

However good luck with the phone banking.

by lori 2008-01-29 10:00AM | 0 recs
Breakdown on the particulars

of a "Closed Primary" anywhere?

I heard from a helpful NJ voter that NJ allows party declaration at the door for independents - but once declared, voter must change registration well in advance if they wish to switch or drop affiliation.

Here in Illinois - it's just a simple matter of what ballot you ask for.

It's been more than 15 years since I've voted in an Indiana primary, but I think Indiana was a simple matter of "declare at the door".

I'm curious if there's any place -- aside from 50 different SoS gov sites -- where the actual primary rules, or specifically, the rules of party affiliation and primary voting eligibility can be found.

by zonk 2008-01-29 10:28AM | 0 recs
Re: California's Decline To State Voters Can Vote

Of course, for many (all?) California permanent absentee DTS voters, it's long since too late to ask for a Dem ballot.  You were mailed the generic DTS ballot weeks ago unless you asked for a Dem ballot before that.  I supposed it's possible to go to the registrar of voters and switch it out, but realistically, few will bother.

Personally, I am torn about allowing non-Democrats to vote in our primaries.  My preferred compromise would be to required Dem registration, but allow same-day registration as a Dem.  But, if you wont even check a box, why should a party allow you to vote in party business.  In most other countries, you have a pay a membership fee to join a party and have a say in the selection of candidates.  I'm not advocating that, but seriously -- if you can't or won't check a damn box...  

by tilthouse 2008-01-29 10:53AM | 0 recs
how long before clinton opposes

this effort?

by highgrade 2008-01-29 11:30AM | 0 recs
I have never approved of Independents

determining the nominee of anyone's party....Democrat or Republican.

And I disagree that it should be encouraged just because it's allowed for them to vote.

Allowing and encouraging are 2 different things.

I have done lots of voter registration work and I always encourage someone to register in a party....even the Republican party.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the 40 year or so decline in the progressiveness of Democratic party ideas and politicians coincides with the rise of some form of "open primary"

I think any Democrat who cares about how progressive they want the Democratic party to be  should rethink this allegiance to letting non party members determine the party's nominee.

We are undercutting our own goals.

by debcoop 2008-01-29 02:36PM | 0 recs
DTS voters only have to request a ballot

a Democratic ballot to vote in the Democratic primary.  They don't have to change their registration.  No way does this accomplish enlarging the Democratic party electorate.

This is not a program to enlarge the Democratic party, but an effort to help one candidate in the guise of enlarging the party.

this is disingenuous

by debcoop 2008-01-29 02:40PM | 0 recs

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