A federal lawsuit alleging widespread confusion over California’s presidential primary rules asks that voter registration be extended past Monday’s deadline until the day of the state’s primary election on June 7. “Mistakes are being made,” said William Simpich, an Oakland civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit Friday. At issue is whether voters understand the rules for the presidential primary, which differ from those governing other elections in California. Unlike statewide primaries — where voters now choose any candidate, no matter the political party — the presidential contests are controlled by the parties themselves. Democrats have opened up their primary between Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to voters that have no political affiliation, known in California as having “no party preference.” But the lawsuit alleges elections officials in some of California’s 58 counties aren’t making that clear to these unaffiliated voters. “There’s mass confusion,” Simpich said in an interview on Saturday night. “This is a situation that really shouts out for some uniformity.”
Simpich said a judge should require state elections officials to conduct a broad public awareness campaign about the voting rules before May 31, the deadline for requesting a ballot by mail. And to ensure unregistered Californians aren’t disenfranchised in the presidential contest, the lawsuit asks voter registration be extended from its deadline on Monday until June 7, the day of the election. There is no indication yet of whether a judge will agree with the suit.
The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include two Bay Area voters and the American Independent Party, a minor party that is allowing unaffiliated voters to cast presidential ballots and has also faced its own problems with voter confusion in recent weeks.
Also listed as a plaintiff is a group called the Voting Rights Defense Project, described as “an organization campaigning to heighten voter education and voter turnout for their candidate, Bernie Sanders.”