A federal judge refused Wednesday to reopen voter registration in California ahead of next week’s presidential primary, telling a group led by backers of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders that the rights of the state’s unaffiliated voters have not been harmed. “There’s absolutely no showing of any federal violation,” said U.S. District Judge William Alsup. Alsup also denied the request that volunteers at polling places be required to tell voters about the unusual rules surrounding which political parties have opened their presidential contests to unaffiliated “independent” voters. “The citizens of California are smart enough to know what their rights are,” the judge said in a brief court hearing in San Francisco. Attorneys for the Sanders affiliated group and California’s American Independent Party, both plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said they would consider asking a federal appeals court to intervene. But they also suggested a last-minute case in state court, even though the primary is on Tuesday.
The lawsuit centered on the potential confusion over presidential primary rules for voters who are independent of political parties, known in California as having “no party preference.”
Next week, those 4.1 million voters will be able to cast a presidential ballot in only one of the two major party races, the Democratic contest between Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Republicans opted against opening their presidential primary to “no party preference” voters.
Two minority parties – the Libertarian Party and the American Independent Party – also will allow unaffiliated voters to cross over and cast a presidential ballot for their candidates.