In Presidential Race, California Disenfranchises Its Fastest-Growing Voter Group

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Those of us who state no party preference, or NPPs, are the fastest-growing voter group in California. There are more of us than there are Republicans.

And yet we can’t vote for whomever we want for president.

That’s a result of political parties. Republicans, who seem to want their party to be as small and as racist as possible these days, won’t let us independents take a ballot. And Democrats have made it harder, with new restrictions on when California independents can request ballots if they want to cast a vote. (You can still take a Democratic ballot and vote on election day).

I am famously an opponent of California’s top-two primary set-up, and I’m skeptical of open primaries. I’d rather we voted for the party. But America, foolishly, maintains a presidential system, despite all the now-obvious risks of investing huge power in one person. If the United States is going to do that, then the least my state can do is guarantee unaffiliated voters like a real vote in the primary nomination process.

The policy on independents is being challenged in court, on the basis that the parties shouldn’t be able to set rules for their own primaries. The state should do it. I wouldn’t go that far—if Democrats and Republicans want to keep us out, well, that says lots about them. But we non-partisans should have a ballot that allows us to vote for any qualified candidate for president, regardless of party. The parties can decide whether or how to count these votes. But at least let us make our choice.

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