Number of independent voters nearly doubled

The Associated Press
Tuesday June 05, 2001

SACRAMENTO — The number of California voters shunning political parties has nearly doubled in 10 years, but Democratic and Republican officials say they aren’t worried. 

“Election results, that’s where the real loyalty is to Democrats in California,” said Democratic Party spokesman Bob Mulholland. “The Democrats won big in California in 1996, 1998 and 2000. The voters left the Republican altar four years ago and haven’t been seen since.” 

Jim Camp, political director for the California Republican Party, said the GOP registered 25,000 new members in March and April and that the presence of President Bush in the White House would bring in more converts. 

“That’s one of my biggest goals, bring back the declines-to-state (a party),” Camp said. “With a president like George Bush we will bring them back.” 

The secretary of state’s office said Friday that nearly 15.6 million Californians were registered to vote in February, a record for the month and a 20 percent increase since 1991. 

Over the same 10-year period, the number of voters refusing to register with a political party jumped from 1.2 million to more than 2.2 million. 

Those so-called declines-to-state now make up 14.4 percent of California’s electorate, compared to 9 percent in 1991. The 14.4 percent is a record, said Alfie Charles, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. 

“In California, voters have consistently shown a propensity to base their decisions on individuals rather than political parties,” said Secretary of State Bill Jones, California’s top elections official.  

“These latest registration numbers help demonstrate that trend.” 

Democrats’ share of the electorate dropped from 49.5 percent in 1991 to 45.6 percent this year. Republican registration dipped from 39.3 percent to 34.8 percent in that period. 

At the same time, minor parties jumped from 2.2 percent to 4.4 percent of voters. 

Democrats had their highest share of the California electorate in 1942, when they had 60.2 percent of registered voters, Charles said. 

The highest Republican percentage — 67.9 percent — was in 1926. 

The state’s 15.6 million registered voters make up 72.19 percent of the adults who could vote if registered. The record is 96.2 percent in 1940. 

There are 1.7 million more Democrats in California than Republicans, but Republicans outnumber Democrats in 32 of the state’s 58 counties. 

The biggest Democratic counties are Alameda, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Sutter, Orange and Placer counties have the highest percentage of Republicans.