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California voter registration hits 2nd highest total ever

Voter registration and sample pamphlets in multiple languages were available after a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
In this file photo, voter registration and sample pamphlets in multiple languages are made available after a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center.

Just over 18 million Californians are now registered to vote, marking the second highest statewide total ever recorded, according to new state data.

The highest total on record came just before the presidential election in 2012, when about 18.2 million people were registered, according to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

The new numbers were released Thursday as part of the first voter registration report for the 2016 General Election. They show that about 73 percent of eligible citizens were registered to vote as of July 7.

Registration numbers tend to go up during presidential election years, but the increase this year is atypical and, if the trend continues, could set a new record by the November election, Padilla told KPCC.

“I think in the first half of the year, there was a lot of excitement because of the contested nominations in both of the political parties, but I’m encouraged by seeing the trends continue,” Padilla said.

Padilla attributed some of the increase in voter rolls to the convenience of online registration, which was deployed just before the 2012 election. He said the state also had some help from Google, Facebook, Twitter and others in the tech community, which have helped spread the word through social media.

Who are these new voters?

The gains were made across political parties, but the largest increase was seen for the Democratic Party, with more than 700,000 new registered voters. Democrats represent the largest voting block in the state, followed by Republicans and No Party Preference voters.

San Bernardino County saw the largest proportional increase in registration, with a boost to its voter rolls of more than 10 percent.

Padilla pointed out that large percentage increases are more likely in counties where the registration rate is lower from the start.

“In some cases, that’s one of the factors. In other cases, it’s the excitement of the top of the ticket. And in other cases, it’s just very active political and community-based organizations doing the legwork to make sure people are registered,” he said.

San Bernardino was followed by Merced and Riverside counties.

Los Angeles County had the largest increase in registered voters overall.

Increase in registration since Jan. 5, by percentage

County % Increase # Increase
San Bernardino 10.60% 76,997
Merced 9.40% 7,949
Riverside 8.80% 74,649
Siskiyou 8.60% 2,110
Santa Clara 8.40% 62,013
Siskiyou 8.60% 2,110
Santa Clara 8.40% 62,013

Overall increase in registration since Jan. 5

County Increase In Registration
Los Angeles 133,426
San Diego 116,630
San Bernardino 76,997
Riverside 74,649
Alameda 63,173

Total statewide registration, by political party

Political Party # Registered % of Total
American Independent 454,946 2.52%
Democratic 8,155,831 45.10%
Green 78,604 0.43%
Libertarian 116,628 0.64%
Peace and Freedom 70,605 0.39%
Republican 4,898,389 27.09%
No Party Preference 4,212,484 23.29%
Miscellaneous 97,512 0.54%
Total 18,084,999 72.89%