This April 1st, let’s protect voters from being AIPrl Fooled.

What if an annual prank placed a half-million voters into a political party they didn’t want to be in?  What if that prank was played on 130,000 Latinos, Asians and African Americans, who were tricked into registering for a political party that was formed to advance segregation and eliminate all immigration?

You’d have to be a fool to think that was funny.  An AIPrl Fool.

Today I’m launching Don’t Be AIPrl_Fooled, a grassroots campaign to bring awareness to the fact that hundreds of thousands of Californians are accidentally registering as members of the American Independent Party (AIP) based on their assumption that checking off the AIP designation means that they are now registered as “independent” of any party.  Previous attempts to remedy this situation have focused on either legally challenging the way the AIP party is presented on the ballot or by getting them to change their name.  But these efforts have had limited results.

The Campaign

Our approach is unique and innovative.  We are leveraging social media and new technology that allows us to directly contact 220,000 registered AIP voters via e-mail to educate them about their party platform and offer them the chance either to re-register as No-Party-Preference (NPP), to register for another political party, or to remain as an AIP voter.  Those that have comments or opinions about becoming AIPrl Fooled can join the conversation on Twitter using our @AIPrl_Fooled twitter account and #AIPrl_Fooled hashtag.

Some startling facts about the AIP party

First, the AIP is a strongly ideological party created in 1967 with a segregationist platform to help nominate George Wallace for President. The AIP’s origins and current party platform reflect a very rigid ideology that is far outside of the norms of political debate in this state, and far from the interests of hundreds of thousands of Californians who have been placed into the party by accident.

Second, the party itself has admitted that a third of their membership is there by mistake, but the real figure is likely around 95%.  Each election year the AIP performs dreadfully – in 2012 its presidential candidate received votes at less than 12% of its own membership.  That means at least 88% of its own voters cast ballots for another party.  If, like with the Libertarian, Peace and Freedom and Green Parties, half of those votes came from members of another party, then that means 94% of the actual AIP registrants likely cast a ballot for some other political party.

The American Independent Party (AIP) is now the third largest party in California, and it is the fastest growing party in the Golden State, outpacing voter registrations for the Democratic and Republican parties.  Does this seem right to you – that a political party can claim the bulk of its membership by hoodwinking voters who are trying to register as “Independents?”

It doesn’t sit well with me either, which is precisely why I decided to launch the Don’t Be AIPrl_Fooled campaign.

Who is being hoodwinked?

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that even politicians, who arguably are more attuned to politics than the rest of the electorate, are becoming AIPrl Fools.  There are scores of elected officials registered as AIP in California, based on a review of current voter files.

Other people of note who have mistakenly registered as AIP include Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.  The then-Mayor’s office responded to her registration in 2008 by saying:

“Siebel is actually an independent voter – “decline to state,” in registration lingo – and checked the American Independent box thinking that was what independent voters were supposed to do.”San Francisco Chronicle, April 23, 2008

That same year, African American former Los Angeles Police Chief and current City Council Member Bernard Parks, had a similar response to his AIP registration:

“Parks said he had been trying simply to register as an independent.”Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2008 

More recently, in 2012 Supervisor Dave Roberts was attacked for being affiliated with George Wallace’s political party:

“He thought he was registering as an independent.”San Diego Union Tribune, Oct 23, 2012

And, in 2005, Republican Assembly Candidate Mary Jo Ford was embroiled in a scandal regarding her previously unknown affiliation with the AIP.   She simply denied that she had been registered AIP stating that she had been an independent voter.

I don’t object to any political party, nor am I against the right for the AIP to have a strongly ideological platform.  But given the political leanings of most registered voters in California, it is hard to believe that the AIP has become the fastest growing political party in the state for any reason other than voter confusion.

The long-term goal of the AIPrl Fooled Campaign is to address the AIP title and create legislative or legal action that eliminates the ability of political parties to have titles that end up violating the voter intent by misleading voters who are actually trying to be unaffiliated with any political party.

But the first step is raising awareness of the issue and elevating the conversation on a grassroots level.  Today we begin that conversation, and hope that it leads to a more educated and attuned electorate.