Lorena Gonzalez Bill to End Ballot Confusion in Presidential Primaries Passes State Senate

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

SACRAMENTO – (Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019) – The California State Senate today voted 28-8 to pass Assembly Bill 681 authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to reduce voter confusion over the presidential primary process and simplify certain updates to a voter’s party preference and address to ensure access to the ballot.

“We need to ensure California’s non-partisan and independent voters are aware they need to take an affirmative step in order to participate in the 2020 presidential primary,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “One postcard notification that they’ll receive during this year’s busy holiday season just isn’t enough.” 

AB 681 would provide California voters with specific notices from county elections officials before a presidential primary. The notices 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.

AB 681 will need to pass a concurrence vote in the Assembly before heading to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk.