If new voter registrations are any indication of interest in the presidential race, California could be facing a low turnout on Nov. 8.
According to the secretary of state’s office, both parties are lagging far behind their registration pace in 1984, the last presidential election.
The Democrats registered 479,685 voters from Jan. 2 to Sept. 9, while the Republicans added 303,432 to their California rolls. Four years ago, each party registered 820,000 new voters in the same period, according to state figures.
Next Tuesday is the last day to fill out a voter registration form in California, and it must be received by the county registrar or secretary of state by Oct. 14 if the applicant wants to vote Nov. 8.
“To register to vote in California, you have to be a U.S. citizen, you must be 18 by Nov. 8, and you can’t be a felon in prison or on parole,” said Caren Daniels-Meade of the secretary of state’s office.
“The state residency requirement is this: As long as you are resident of the state 29 days before the election you can register and vote.”
Persons wanting to vote absentee may apply for a ballot starting Tuesday. The deadline for those applications is Nov. 1.
The applications are on the back page of sample ballots being mailed out to voters by county registrars. They may also be obtained by sending a written request to the county registrar, or to the county clerk in some cases.
In Los Angeles, requests for absentee ballots should be mailed to Absent Voters Section, Box 30450, Los Angeles 90030. In Orange County, the address is Registrar of Voters, Box 11298, Santa Ana 92711.
Bob Mulholland, voter registration coordinator for California’s Democrats this year, said that his party had worked hard to out-register the Republicans this time because they were stunned when the opposite happened in 1986.
That year the Republicans ran far ahead in new registrations in the state.
This year, the Republicans have stepped up their efforts since the Sept. 9 report and still hope to win the war for 1988 before it’s all over.
Daniels-Meade said that by the time the registration rolls are closed, the state should have 13.4 million registered voters, about 50% of them listed as Democrats and 38% as Republicans. The rest will have declined to state a party preference or will be members of minor parties.
“The total figure will be a record for the state,” said Daniels-Meade. “But the sad thing is there are another 6 million Californians who are eligible to register but fail to do so.
“Some people say they don’t register because they’ll have to do jury duty. But in fact, jurors are also selected from Department of Motor Vehicle registrations.”
Despite the Democratic edge in registration, Republicans point out that they have won California in every presidential election but one since 1952, and they won the 1982 and 1986 gubernatorial elections.
This year, the Republican Party found a particularly effective way of reaching some of its supporters who have moved since the last presidential election.
Because voters become ineligible if they move and fail to reregister, the GOP put together a list of Californians who have changed their addresses. It then matched those names against a list of registered Republicans provided by the secretary of state’s office.
Those Republicans received at their new addresses a voter registration form attached to a pamphlet containing a picture of Republican presidential nominee George Bush and a plea for support on Nov. 8. They could fill out the registration form and mail it in postage-paid to the secretary of state’s office.
Mulholland said the Democrats had major success getting new voters “by having supportive organizations such as the AFL-CIO give us their membership lists, which we then matched against the voter rolls. Anyone not registered got a card in the mail.”