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California Might Make It Easier To Swap Political Parties Before March 3

The Orange County Registrar-Recorder held a mock election previewing new vote centers and ballot marking equipment at county offices in Santa Ana on Jan. 7, 2020. Libby Denkmann for LAist
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An “urgent” bill on its way to Governor Newsom’s desk could make it easier for Californians who don’t identify with a political party to vote for presidential candidates.

No Party Preference voters are the second largest group in the state, about a quarter of the electorate. But every four years when primary election time comes around, non-affiliated voters are often disappointed to see zero presidential candidates on their ballots. That’s because state political parties choose who can vote in their presidential nominating contests.

Democrats, Libertarians and the American Independent Party allow non-affiliated voters to ask for a "crossover" ballot for their primaries.

But Republicans, the Green Party and the Peace and Freedom Party do not.

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A bill that passed the Assembly and State Senate this week, SB 207, would simplify the process of changing political parties, up to and including election day.

The state allows same day-voter registration, but the process to change political parties is clunky. Voters have to fill out a new registration form, which can slow things down and create lines at the polls. And if people try to switch parties within the 15 days before an election, they’re forced to conditionally register and use a provisional ballot, which isn't counted as quickly.

Under the bill, voters would get to use a simplified form to swap parties -- making it quicker and easier to participate in the presidential primary of their choice.

State Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) co-authored the legislation with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). If Gov. Newsom signs SB 207, it will go into effect immediately, in time for the March 3 primary.