SACRAMENTO (CBSLA/AP) — With so many Californians seeking to register as Independents accidentally registering with the far-right American Independent Party, state officials have unveiled a redesigned voter registration card that they say will make the process easier and much clearer.
The new card (PDF) is more logical and uses more conversational language than the old form, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. The changes will make it easier for people who struggle with reading comprehension or eyesight problems to correctly register to vote, officials say.
Padilla, a Democrat, pointed out that the changes will make it easier for people with difficulty speaking English to vote.
That could help Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections because they typically benefit from higher turnout among non-white voters.
The new paper forms have already been printed and shipped to elections offices across the state, Padilla said. Registrations using the old forms will still be valid and Californians can still register to vote online.
The new form has two sections for political party preference. One says “I want to choose a political party preference” and lists the names of political parties registrants can check. The other says “I do not want to choose a political party preference” with a box to check that says “No Party/None.”
The old form had two different options, a box that said “Yes, my political party preference is” with a list of parties and another that said “No, I do not want to choose a political party preference.”
A Los Angeles Times survey in 2016 found that as many as 73 percent of voters were mistakenly registered as part of the American Independent Party, an ultraconservative party that opposes abortion rights, same-sex marriage and calls for building a fence along the entire United States border. The party, which had billed itself as “The Fastest Growing Political Party Party in California,” had apparently confused voters from all walks of life by the use of “independent” in the party’s name, according to the Times.
Although California doesn’t reject large numbers of voter registration forms, mistakes like choosing the wrong political party can confuse voters and create problems on Election Day, Dean Logan said, the top election official in Los Angeles County.
Logan said he anticipates the new form will reduce Election Day confusion and decrease the number of voters who cast provisional ballots, which are used when there are questions about a voter’s eligibility.
The new form also has a larger section for people to sign up to vote by mail that includes information on how the process works.
A complicated registration form can intimidate people and discourage them from voting, Melissa Breach said, California executive director for the League of Women Voters.
“For many people in California, a complicated form is an impediment to participation,” she said at a Thursday news conference touting the redesign. “It’s much more than a form, it’s really about every Californians’ access to the ballot.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)