Bernie Sanders

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gets a round of applause during a rally at Lincoln Park in East Los Angeles. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Cathleen Decker
May 23, 2016

California, the state with a well-earned reputation for disinterest in things political, has been overrun by a vast and historic burst of new voters.

And those voters will storm the polling places, rescuing the state from its usual self-flagellation over poor turnout and determining the winner of the contested June 7 presidential primary.

Or it hasn’t. And they won’t.

The answers rely on two circumstances that were unclear as Monday’s deadline for registering to vote came and went. One is how voters are counted in this state. The other is whether those new voters, however large their cohort is, will defy tradition to show up.

Most state and local officials and voting experts believe that there has been a surge in new registrants. It’s just that it’s hard to prove it beyond a doubt. The numbers tend to confuse rather than clarify.

According to data from the office of Secretary of State Alex Padilla, hundreds of thousands of registrations occurred between mid-March and mid-May.

They show an increase of more than 220,000 Democrats, or a nearly 3-percentage-point boost in their numbers, which hit 7.7 million. Republican numbers rose by nearly 70,000, for a 1.45-percentage-point increase and a total of 4.8 million. And the ranks of non-partisan voters — which have been the fastest-growing in California for years now — actually fell by 20,000 to total 4.1 million, a drop of half a percentage point. None of that appears hugely significant.

But statistics kept by voting specialist Paul Mitchell suggest a far larger group has jumped into the pool.

By his count, more than 2 million fresh voters will be included by the time the tallies from Monday’s deadline are completed. According to counts made by his firm, Political Data Inc., there already has been a boost of 218% in Democratic registration, of 78% in Republican registration, and 74% in nonpartisan registrations.

Registrations among Latinos are up 123%, he said. Sign-ups among those 24 and younger are up 87% and those 25 to 30 are up 188%. The latter two categories would suggest a boost for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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