Inclined To Decline... To State

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New evidence out today confirms what most everyone knows about California politics... it's hip to be a freelancer when it comes to party affiliation.

The latest voter registration report from Secretary of State Debra Bowen shows that almost 3 million California voters are now unaffiliated... what's known in electoral parlance as "decline to state," or the insider shorthand "DTS."

That's about 500,000 more DTS voters when compared to this time in 2003... meaning that just about one of every five Californians now registered to vote steers clear of organized political parties.

Democrats still account for a plurality of voters, with just more than 42% of the state total. That's down, though, from four years ago. Republicans have lost ground, too; just under 34% of voters are aligned with the Grand Old Party.

I have to say I'm always struck by another fact in these registration reports... and that's how many people are registered as American Independent. Okay, many of these voters may indeed have strong conservative feelings that dovetail with the party's platform.

But how many people thought they were registering as an actual independent voter? If confusion is really widespread -- and that's possible, when you consider that the AI contingent is now more than twice the size of any other third party in California -- then the power of independent voters is even greater than these numbers suggest.

By the way, the statewide total of registered voters has dropped from this past March, when the last report was issued. A statement from Bowen says much of that might be due to inaccurate voter data being removed from the rolls. Still, she says the downward trend is troubling.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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