Lorena Gonzalez Bill to End Ballot Confusion in Presidential Primaries Passes First Committee

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

SACRAMENTO -- (Wednesday, April 10, 2019) -- California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced Assembly Bill 681 this year to ensure voters who are unaffiliated with a political party are notified of how to participate in California’s presidential primary elections. AB 681 passed its first legislative hurdle in the Assembly Elections Committee on Wednesday on a 6 to 1 vote.  

“We want to avoid the confusion too many non-partisan voters experienced in 2016,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “We need to ensure no party preference and independent voters in California are aware they need to take an affirmative step in order to participate in the 2020 presidential primary. One postcard notification that they’ll receive during this year’s busy holiday season just isn’t enough.” 

AB 681 would provide all California voters with at least three separate notices from county elections officials between the 90th and 30th day before a presidential primary. That notice will contain key information to reduce voter confusion over the primary process, and ensure proper access to the ballot. 

Confusion for voters stems from California’s open primary rules. In state and local primary elections, all voters including registered independents get a ballot that features all candidates on it. But during presidential primaries, the national party holding the primary must choose whether to allow independent voters to participate or not.  

Unaffiliated voters have not been allowed to participate in the Republican presidential primaries, according to Republican National Committee rules. In the case that there is a primary, these notices will give ‘no party preference’ voters enough time to re-register if they would like to participate.  

In order for voters who are not affiliated with a political party to participate in the Democratic presidential primary, they must request a special ballot that lists Democratic candidates in advance. These notices will ensure independent voters make that request in time to participate in the Democratic presidential primary.  

The notice required by AB 681 would contain:

  • A voter’s current political party preference;
  • Type of ballot the voter is eligible to cast;
  • How to request a partisan ballot as a no party preference voter; and
  • How to update a voter’s political party preference.

Voters will receive at least one notice in an alternative form to mail, such as by email, text or another communication method, to ensure that this information gets to the voter. By sending multiple notices via different methods, AB 681 will ensure voters receive this important information for participating in California's presidential primaries.