Voter registration for next week's election is the highest ever for a non-presidential election in California, the secretary of state's office announced Wednesday.
A total of 14.7 million Californians are eligible to vote next Tuesday, including 552,373 new voters. The Democrats won the battle of late voter registration, signing up 295,515 new party members as compared to 211,382 new Republicans since the June primary.
But Democrats fell short of their goal of registering 500,000 first-time voters. They downplayed the shortfall.
Bob Mulholland, a state Democratic Party campaign adviser, said he was happy with the outcome, adding, "We've beaten the Republicans by 84,133 new registrations." That led to scoffing from Republicans.
Said John Peschong, executive director of the state Republican Party, of the Democrats' advantage: "When you register dogs, cats and children, and pay bounty hunters $10 per registration like the Democrats do, you are bound to get more registrations."
Of the about 14.7 million registered voters, 7,219,635 are Democrats (49.03%) and 5,472,391 are Republicans (37.17%).
Democrats made particular efforts this fall to register more traditional Democratic voters such as blacks. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Brown and the Rev. Jesse Jackson caravaned through parts of Los Angeles in late September seeking to boost black registration.
Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) and the Legislative Black Caucus also were active in late voter registration efforts. The number of new black voters, however, is not known, the secretary of state's office said, explaining that the new registration numbers are broken down only by political party.
Mulholland insisted that, if the registration of party members who have moved to new residences is included in the new totals, then Democrats did reach their goal of 500,000 new registrations.
"We actually registered 500,000 Democrats," he said, "including those who have moved to a new residence. Remember, you can't vote unless you re-register after you move."
Peschong countered by explaining that Republicans traditionally are more apt to vote, closing whatever gap exists in the numbers of registered voters. "We think we did exceptionally well," Peschong said, "and our registrants are Republicans who will vote on Election Day."
Completing the list of registered voters were 1,514,979 (10.28%) who declined to state a party affiliation, 242,510 (1.65%) from the American Independent Party, 86,198 (0.59%) from the Green Party, 69,951 (0.48%) Libertarians, 66,955 (0.45%) from the Peace and Freedom Party and 51,166 (0.35%) in the category of miscellaneous non-qualified party registrants.
The previous registration record for a non-presidential election was 13.5 million in November, 1990. The record for voter registration occurred in the 1992 presidential election, when 15,101,473 Californians were on the voter rolls.
Democrats lead in voter registration in 40 California counties, compared to 18 counties for the GOP.
Los Angeles County has 3,665,868 registered voters, including 2,037,899 Democrats (55.59%) and 1,162,889 Republicans (31.72%).
Orange County remained the state leader among Republican counties with 615,025 registered Republicans (52.5%) and 400,721 Democrats (34.2%). The county has 1,170,072 registered voters in all.
In Ventura County, 351,921 registered to vote, with 155,468 (44.2%) Republicans and 144,791 (41.1%) Democrats.