Democrats and Republicans have reason for concern over the latest reports that both parties are losing registered voters in the most populous states in the country. Following a nationwide trend, even “ultra-blue” California Democrats have felt the need to “moderate.”
Currently, California boasts an electorate of 17.7 million registered voters with 43.6 percent identified as Democrats in last year, down a full percentage point since 2010. Meanwhile, Republicans registration has dropped more than 2 percentage points to 28.7 percent, according to new figures in a just-released Secretary of State report.
Since 1997, the Democratic Party's share of the registered vote in California has dropped 3.2 percentage points - Republicans lost 7.5 points, according to the report.
"No party preference" (NPP) has risen to 20.9 percent in 2013. Another 6.8 percent of Californians identify with smaller parties including the American Independent Party, Americans Elect Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, or Peace and Freedom Party.
National registration of independents hit a record high of 42 percent in 2013, according to a recent Gallup poll, mostly at the higher expense of the Republicans over the Democratic Party.
In California, approximately 20 percent of independent voters cast their ballots for Republicans while a commanding 40 percent Democrats, according to Eric McGhee, a research fellow at the California Public Policy Institute.
John McGlennon, who chairs the Department of Government at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. said, “You used to have elections where voters could ignore the primary, since there would be a choice of two or more different party representatives. Now the primary voters pick the top two, and there will be a number of cases where the highest-turnout elections will not offer voters a choice between or among parties.”
This dramatic change in the election rules encourages voters to stray beyond party lines.and consensus-building, some analysts say.
Other California reforms, such as drawing district lines by a citizen committee rather than the legislature and establishing term limits as of 2012, magnify these trends and “have helped open up a free-for-all across many areas of the state," says Sonoma State's Professor McCuan.
Michael Shires, professor of public policy at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., says “The two established political parties is a growing national trend and, if California's model seems to result in broader consensus and moderation, we may see elements of it spill over into other states.”
About 3 in 4 of California’s 24 million eligible voters are registered, an increase of about 751,000 since 2010.
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