Independent Voters Hold Key To Deciding California’s Democratic Primary

Democratic Party Symbol
Democratic Party Symbol

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — In the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, there’s an overlooked group of voters who could be key to victory: independents.

More than 5 million voters not registered in a party are eligible to participate in California’s March 3 Democratic primary, the second most of any state that votes on Super Tuesday, after Texas. These voters flexed their power during the 2018 midterms, helping California Democrats flip seven U.S. House seats long held by Republicans.

As of last week, just 8% of independents who vote by mail had asked for a ballot in the presidential primary, according to data collection by Paul Mitchell, who runs the nonpartisan Political Data Inc., which collects and sells voter data to campaigns. Not all counties had reported data.

In California, 240,000 independents cast ballots in the 2016 primary between Sanders and Clinton. Four years later, there are twice as many independent voters in the state, and most are likely to vote Democratic in the general election.