Elections

California independents have three choices for presidential primary

California’s 4.2 million voters without a party preference will be able to choose from a Democratic, Libertarian or American Independent ballot in the presidential contest on June 7, 2016.
California’s 4.2 million voters without a party preference will be able to choose from a Democratic, Libertarian or American Independent ballot in the presidential contest on June 7, 2016. rbyer@sacbee.com

California’s top-two primary law makes a voter’s party affiliation – or lack thereof – almost moot. In congressional and legislative contests, people can vote for anyone, regardless of party, and the two candidates with the most votes advance to a November runoff.

But party still matters in presidential races. And in California’s June 7 presidential primary, the state’s growing number of voters without a party preference will have just three partisan ballots to choose from – Democratic, American Independent, or Libertarian.

The three parties notified Secretary of State Alex Padilla that any of the state’s nearly 4.2 million no-party preference voters could request their respective presidential primary ballot. Such voters make up more than one-fifth of the California electorate.

The California Democratic Party, the state’s largest, has opened its presidential primary to independent voters for more than a decade. If the heated contest between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont continues past earlier primary states, California’s independent voters would be a significant target for both Democratic campaigns leading up to June 7.

The Republican presidential primary ballot, meanwhile, will be available to only the state’s nearly 5 million GOP voters. Likewise, only voters registered in the Green and Peace and Freedom parties can cast ballots in those presidential primaries.

Political party central committee contests remain open only to voters with the same party affiliation.

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