High turnout, few glitches for election
February 5, 2008
Hundreds of thousands of newly registered voters had election officials expecting a high turnout for Tuesday’s primary, but confusion surrounding the name of one political party had some leaving the polls disappointed.
Seven hundred thousand Californians have registered since 2004’s presidential primary; 242,202 since December alone, according to statistics from Secretary of State Debra Bowen.
“Voter registration drives across the state have paid off, because there are now tens of thousands of new voters who will have their voices heard on Feb. 5,” Bowen said in a news statement.
El Dorado County Registrar of Voters William Schultz originally was skeptical about voter turnout, but the approximately 30,000 El Dorado vote-by-mail ballots turned in within the past week changed his mind.
“That’s a great number,” Schultz said.
And not just for a traditionally humble primary.
“That’s unusual for any election,” Schultz said. “Anything over that, and it’s almost like a record-buster.”
About 50,000 El Dorado County residents are registered to vote by mail, Schultz added.
Even with larger percentages of people not voting in person, veteran poll inspector Diana Lee Foster reported a “steady flow” of voters Tuesday to the polling location at South Lake Tahoe Fire Station No. 2.
Republicans changed the rule allowing unaffiliated people to vote in their primary elections last year and now have a “closed” primary. But the Democratic Party still allows unaffiliated voters to vote in their primary.
Many people wanting to register independent of any party, believing they would be able to vote in the Democratic primary, actually registered with the American Independent Party, Foster said.
The American Independent Party describes itself as “the fastest-growing political party in California” and has a pro-life, anti-war platform encouraging immigration reduction and the termination of free-trade agreements.
“I would have voted for Hillary, but I was registered Independent,” South Lake Tahoe resident Kate McBrien said after casting her vote for the seven propositions on the ballot. McBrien said she likely will change her political affiliation ahead of the next primary.
Others who mistakenly registered as American Independents, rather than as undeclared, were snatching up change-of-party forms at the polling place. Foster’s supply of 20 forms was exhausted, and the poll inspector was waiting for a runner to bring more.
The change-of-party forms did not allow people who made the mistake to vote in the Democratic party’s Tuesday primary, but it changed their political affiliation for future elections.
Voters wishing to remain unaffiliated with a political party but wanting to cast a ballot during the Democratic Party’s primary, should mark “decline to state” when choosing an affiliation, then request to vote in the primary, according to a news release from the secretary of state.