By Yezdyar Kaoosji
The January 2020 edition of the Community Alliance carried an informative article titled “New Approach to Voting.” It covers the new method based on the 2016 Voter’s Choice Act and guides voters on the new systems adopted by the Fresno County election office.
Fresno is one of only 15 counties that have opted for the new system enacted four years ago. However, this article is not a critique of the strange situation where counties may or may not adopt a state law.
Rather, this article deals with more insidious issues in California elections. Voter registration! It affects all of us, and the old “consumer beware” caution can help every registered voter. Here is why.
On Jan. 14, I listened to Greg Palast, the nationally recognized expert on voting issues, on KPFA, and heard the same issues he addressed when he spoke at the KFCF Banquet last year in Fresno.
His blog of the day starts, “My dear Californians, I know you filled out that registration form at the DMV. Well, you know what? I’ll bet you that your name will not be there because there’s a 45% chance in California when you sign up to register to vote on a piece of paper your name is never entered on the voter rolls. Guess what? California has one of the worst voting systems in the entire nation.”
This made me wonder about my voter registration. In November 2019, my wife and I visited the Fresno County Registrar of Voters office to change our party registration from “No Party Preference” to “Democratic Party.” On Jan. 16, we checked our registration online and found that the California Secretary of State Web site still had us registered as “No Party Preference.”
I called the Registrar’s office and was told they had no evidence that we had re-registered in November. The staff could not find the paperwork and could not explain why. However, they suggested that we re-register online, print the receipt with the affidavit number and call them to confirm. We did so. They checked their computer and confirmed our voter registration as Democrats. Hooray!
We are all feverishly working to nominate the Democratic Party presidential candidate of our choice and in the process are registering new voters. But the question that should haunt us is whether the new voters will see their names on the voter roll on Election Day.
Therefore, Caution No. 1: Whether you registered to vote a long time ago or re-registered recently, go to your Registrar of Voters’ Web site (www.fresnovote.com in Fresno County) and confirm your registration status. When you fill in your details, the California Secretary of State Web site page will pop up with your voter registration details.
An additional advantage of checking online is that your driver’s license signature will be linked to validate your ballot. Knowing how you signed will reduce the chances of your vote being invalidated.
Now let’s move to the second voter registration issue: Voting when registered as “No Party Preference” (NPP), colloquially referred to as “independent,” in the 2020 Presidential Primary election. In this case, a voter requires a crossover ballot for the party of choice. Only three parties permit NPP voters to vote in their primary: the American Independent Party, the Democratic Party and the Libertarian Party.
Before you consider your options, here is another relevant quote from Greg Palast:
“In 2016, people were improperly registered, or not registered. There were three-quarters of a million ballots which were cast provisionally or on the wrong ballot, which were thrown out…The Secretary of State of California…threw out three-quarters of a million ballots. They were mostly Bernie voters. We know that from the Roper Poll of the demographic. Bernie Sanders won [in] California in June 2016, if you count all the votes.”
That brings us to Caution No. 2: If you want to vote in the Democratic Party Presidential Primary, your best bet is to vote as a registered Democratic Party voter. It guarantees your vote is valid, and you need not jump through hoops to cast a crossover ballot.
How do you change your voter registration? Fill in a new voter registration form online, and check the party of your choice. After the Primary election, you can always change your registration back to NPP. You do not need a party registration to vote in the November General Election.
The California Primary is on Super Tuesday, March 3. Make your vote count!
Yezdyar Kaoosji writes an occasional column, “Progressive Voice,” in the Community Alliance newspaper. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.