The state’s voting rolls are filled with a growing number of independent thinkers. Unfortunately, a significant swath of these independents are signed up for the wrong political party. These are the ones who marked “American independent” because they don’t want to be pigeonholed left, right, middle or even slightly askew. But the American Independent Party is not the same as independent or declaring no party preference and these slightly misguided voters might find themselves crashing a party that isn’t a big fan of illegal immigrants, gay marriage and abortion. For those who count themselves on the “pro” side of these issues, registering for this party might be a bit alarming.
Think of it as finding out your online paramour isn’t exactly who you think he or she is but having to go through with the date because you’ve already committed. In this case, that date is Election Day and it’s one each person has to navigate for themselves. No wingman allowed in the voting booth.
But Mark Vargas, a Los Angeles resident and former member of the Little Hoover Commission, reportedly is trying to give potential voters a little help in picking the right party prior to that point.
On April 1, Vargas publicly threw out the claim that as many as 95 percent of voters registered to the American Independent Party actually didn’t mean to do so. He followed up by launching a “Don’t be AIPrl Fooled” campaign to highlight the common error and help voters untangle themselves if they wish. There are links to county registrars, online voter registration systems and proof that those who checked the wrong box are not alone. According to Vargas’ website, those who accidentally signed up include state elected officials, at least one former police chief in Los Angeles and even Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of our current lieutenant governor.
This name snafu is probably why the American Independent Party is among the fastest growing and comes in third in California, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Granted, with 2.68 percent of registered voters (as of late April data), the American Independent Party is admittedly not in the same sphere as Democrats — 43.48 percent as of April 4 — and Republicans with 28.55 percent. The AIP is also dwarfed by the collective who declared “no party preference.” These loners 21.06 percent of the 17,660,486 registered voters as of April 2014 and that number is a serious jump since the last gubernatorial primary in 2010. Back then, 20.14 percent of voters weren’t so thrilled by any of the political parties, large or small.
But while the AIP is small, it is mighty (regardless of why people are actually signing up) and seriously beating out those Greens, Libertarians and Peace and Freedom folks in the popularity game. There’s also Americans Elect. No clue who they are but I give the 3,600-plus members props for registering to vote and, hopefully, actually following through.
With the shifts in party affiliation and California’s move to a top-two primary election, it doesn’t really matter so much under what banner a resident casts a vote — just that they do and for which candidate and what issues they do it.
Be a grand old partygoer. Fly a donkey flag. Heck, fly whatever flag you want. But to earn that right, you have to vote.
Thankfully for the procrastinators, the deadline to register isn’t until May 19. So get thee to the Elections Office or get thee to a computer. Like political party, it’s a matter of preference.
When it comes to elections, there isn’t really a wrong party. The important thing is just that you participate. Not doing so is the only thing that doesn’t register.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com