Politics

LA County voters switching parties in advance of June 7 primary

FILE: A student at North Hollywood High School fills out a voter registration form during lunch on Thursday, April 30, 2015, as part of a student voter drive.
FILE: A student at North Hollywood High School fills out a voter registration form during lunch on Thursday, April 30, 2015, as part of a student voter drive.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Listen to story

00:49
Download this story 0MB

Los Angeles County has been seeing a surge in voters switching parties, according to registration numbers analyzed by KPCC.

In the first three months of 2016, more than 23,000 people in Los Angeles County — the most populous county in the United States — have become Democrats. They are followed by about 18,000 who switched to "no party preference" and then by those who jumped to the Republican Party, about 10,500 people.

The shifts in party affiliation follow news of a surge in online voter registrations statewide, and a spike in signups by young voters, all of which reflect this year's sky-high interest in the presidential election and the heated competition in both major parties for the presidential nominations.

L.A. County voters aren't asked why they are changing parties when they switch, but the increase in registrations can be tracked back to Super Tuesday, when Republican candidate Donald Trump solidified his position as his party's front-runner.

The numbers switching may be on the upswing as the primary election nears: March saw about double the number of voters switching to the Democratic Party compared to February, about 13,000 people. 

Mindy Romero, who directs the California Civic Engagement Project at the University of California, Davis, has been studying voter registrations. She said the current spike in voters shifting between parties is unusual.

"Voters are thinking strategically, they want to make sure their vote counts. They’re lining up early to make sure that they’re registered, and registered for the party they want to vote for," she said.

Voter turnout for presidential primaries in California is usually low. But Romero said there’s a good chance that this will change this year.

"With certainly the registration numbers, we're thinking that maybe this year could be high turnout," she said. 

The last day to register to vote or switch party registration is May 23. If you want to vote in the Republican Party primary, you must be registered as a Republican to do so.

To vote in the Democratic Party primary, you must be registered as a Democrat or as having no party preference, but for the latter you must request a crossover ballot.

If you live in LA County, more information on how to do this is available online. You can also register to vote online.