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Voters registered 'no party preference' must take extra step to vote for presidential nominee
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MARCH PRIMARY

Voters registered 'no party preference' must take extra step to vote for presidential nominee

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Joseph E. Holland

Holland

Citizens who registered to vote with “no party preference” will have to take an extra step in the process if they want to vote for a presidential nominee in any of four parties in the March 3 primary.

The requirement is one of the issues keeping Santa Barbara County Elections Division personnel hopping as they prepare for the primary election, said Joseph Holland, the county’s registrar of voters who also wears the county clerk, recorder and assessor hats.

“One of the biggest issues moving into this primary is we have a lot of ‘no party preference’ voters,” Holland said, adding the number of people registered with “no party preference” — previously referred to on registration forms as “decline to state” — has increased.

Of the county’s 222,525 registered voters as of Jan. 3, a total of 55,923, or 25.1%, were registered with “no party preference,” according to the voter registration report from the California Secretary of State Election Division.

That’s the same percentage as for the 2016 presidential primary but more than the 24.6% for the 2018 state primary.

“Most everyone is going to want to vote on the presidential election,” Holland continued. “But if those registered NPP want to vote in the presidential [nomination] contest and want to vote for a Democrat, they’ll have to request a crossover ballot.”

“No party preference” voters who want to cast a ballot for a Libertarian or American Independent presidential candidate also will have to request a crossover ballot for either of those parties.

“The Republican Party does not allow crossover voting,” Holland said. “Anyone registered NPP who wants to vote Republican will need to reregister completely. That’s going to be the biggest issue for voters.”

Holland said everyone who registered with “no party preference” was sent a postcard from the County Elections Division reminding them to request a crossover ballot if they want to vote for a presidential nominee and how to request one.

The same notice was included with the vote-by-mail information the county sent out.

“People can [request one] just by calling our office,” Holland added.

Earlier primary impact

Although the County Elections Division has had to provide crossover ballots to “no party preference” registrants, the big issue for the office has been the earlier primary, which was moved up from June to March this year.

“The main impact [of moving up the primary] is that it moved the candidates’ filing period up to December,” said Joseph Holland, the county’s registrar of voters who also wears the county clerk, recorder and assessor hats.

“So we’ve been scrambling to order ballots,” Holland continued. “While most of the county [employees] took the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, elections [staff] didn’t do that. We worked right on through.”

Holland said there is no indication that the earlier filing deadline caught potential candidates off-guard and reduced the numbers on the ballot.

“People interested in running for office are pretty much aware of the deadlines,” he said.

But the earlier primary has delayed the Elections Division staff from setting up and testing new voting and tabulating machines that arrived months ago.

“We took delivery in October, but we’re just doing other things right now,” Holland said. “They’ll be ready to go by Election Day, but we haven’t been able to go ‘hands on’ because we’re doing things like ordering ballots.”

Most of the county’s voters won’t notice anything different about the process come March 3. They’ll still mark paper ballots that are virtually unchanged from the ones they’ve used for the past 20 years, Holland said.

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