Capitol Alert

See California areas with the largest boom in ‘no party preference’ voters

The growth in Californians registering as “no party preference” has accelerated since the 2016 presidential election, with both Democrats and Republicans losing tens of thousands of voters.

About 5.5 million Californians registered as no party preference as of February 2019, up by about 930,000, or 20 percent, from October 2016, according to new figures from the California Secretary of State. That’s much higher than the rate of growth in no party preference voters seen during similar periods after the previous four presidential elections.

The number of registered Democrats has fallen by about 110,000 since the 2016 election. The number of Republicans has dropped by about 340,000.

Some of the spike may be due to a the implementation of a new motor voter program in April 2018. Paul Mitchell, a political consultant and vice president of the bipartisan voter data firm Political Data, said in September that the the layout of the new DMV form may contribute to the trend. He said his data showed that 52 percent of those who registered at the DMV decline to state a party, compared with 33 percent of those who register another way.

There are now nearly 1 million more California no party preference voters than Republicans. Democrats still have a plurality in the state, outnumbering no party preference voters by 3 million.

The growth in no party preference voters has hurt Republicans more than Democrats.

All but one of the 20 counties with the largest percentage growth in no party preference voters since the 2016 election also have a higher percentage of Republicans than the statewide average.

Phillip Reese is a data specialist at The Sacramento Bee and an assistant professor of journalism at Sacramento State. His journalism has won the George Polk and Worth Bingham awards, and he was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.