Independent Voters Growing at Eight Times Rate of Democrats in California

It was a big story for Californians last year when independent voters (who register as “No Party Preference” or NPP) surged ahead of Republicans in total registrations for the first time.

Hidden in the fall registration numbers, however, is a bigger political shift that will shape the Democratic Presidential Primary as the state heads towards its new early primary date in March 2020. Registration data from the California Secretary of State show that NPP voter registration grew by 11.7% from May 21 to Oct. 22 last year, over EIGHT TIMES the anemic rate of growth for the Democratic Party.

Republicans continued their slide, LOSING total registrations over the summer. (Only seven Republicans remain in California’s 53-member House of Representatives delegation, a number my PAC, The Really Online Lefty League, aims to diminish this cycle.)

Raw numbers for this analysis come from CASOS voter registration statistics:
May 21, 2018 | Oct. 22, 2018

In October, 4,725,054 Californians were Republicans, 5,419,607 NPP, and 8,557,427 were Democrats. The total lead in Democratic registrations, often cited against Republicans, hides a much more significant trend in voter attitude. In the five months between reports, the Democrats added 119,159 new voters, growth of 1.4%. NPP registrations, however, grew 8.35 times as fast and for every new Democrat, five Californians went independent — more than half a million.

If these trends continue, NPP and Democratic registrations will be much closer to parity come the presidential primary, where establishment favorite California Senator Kamala Harris may face off against independent Bernie Sanders in a repeat of 2016’s disappointing June primary that saw the race called for Hillary Clinton based upon superdelegates while Californians were still voting. Such a contest will be complicated for Sanders by California’s growing vote-by-mail registration and NPP rules that require voters to request a Democratic Primary ballot or receive a ballot without the presidential contest. Additionally, NPPs historically have turned out at lower rates than both Democrats and Republicans.

The trend also may stall out as three-in-four Californians are already registered, the highest in more than 60 years. Organizations looking to reach unregistered potentials voters may want to consult with Accurate Append (client) about using consumer data to identify and reach these potential new voters.

Why are California voters choosing NPP? While the chair of the state Democratic Party resigned amid sex abuse allegations after these numbers, the Democrats under his leadership had hewed to a strong pro-business agenda, and the chair’s consulting firm successfully lobbied against a drug price reduction initiative backed by Sanders himself. Growth of 1.4% during the peak of one of the biggest elections in our lifetimes? The California Democratic Party isn’t looking so hot.