A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit brought by supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to extend California’s voter registration window.
California’s election rules allow voters without a party preference to vote in the Democratic presidential primary but require them to take some extra steps to obtain presidential ballots.
Arguing that a lack of information about that process risked disenfranchising voters, a group of plaintiffs that include the pro-Sanders Voting Rights Defense Project sued to extend the voter registration deadline, allow write-in ballots and launch an information campaign “via radio, TV, newspaper, internet social media platforms.”
But Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California rebuffed that argument, saying he did not believe voters were being disadvantaged.
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“The citizens of California are smart enough to know what their rights are, and smart enough to go into a polling place and say, ‘I’m a (no-party preference voter) and want a cross-over ballot,” Alsup said, according to the Associated Press. “We don’t need to overeducate them with public service announcements that are going on anyway.”
Plaintiffs attorney Bill Simpich said they had no plan to appeal the decision.
“I don’t think that’s the smart thing to do,” Simpich said, saying instead “the important thing is to focus on education” between now and the June 7 election.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla called the ruling “consistent with the time-honored tradition that you don’t change rules in the middle of a contest.”
“The suit was an unnecessary distraction that threatened to undermine the efforts of election officials,” Padilla said in a statement. “With significant increases in voter registration and growing numbers of young people engaging in this election, let's do our best and encourage all registered voters to vote in next Tuesday’s presidential primary election.”
Editor’s note: This post was updated at 4:25 p.m. June 1 to include Padilla’s statement.