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California records highest number of registered voters in its history

File: Pens, buttons and registration forms lie on a table during a voter registration drive in New York.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
File: Pens, buttons and registration forms lie on a table during a voter registration drive in New York.

A record number of Californians — 18.2 million — are now registered to vote and more are expected in time for the Nov. 8 general election, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Wednesday.

The number of registrations as of Sept. 9 amounts to more than 73 percent of citizens eligible to vote in California and breaks the previous record of just over 18 million recorded before the 2012 general election. Just over 5 million of the registered voters live in Los Angeles County. Padilla told KPCC that he expects the numbers to keep rising until the registration deadline on Oct. 24. 

Padilla said several factors have played a role in the uptick. Apart from the unique presidential campaign cycle currently underway, he said, the state's growing population has also contributed to the record-breaking numbers, among other elements. 

“Yes, it’s been an interesting presidential election but it’s not the only reason. In California, we now make it easier to register to vote," he said.

The fastest growing segment of California's population is young people between the ages of 18 and 24 — first-time voters who find it more appealing to register electronically. For years, residents had to go to a public library or post office to find a registration form, Padilla said.

“I think being able to do it off of your smartphone makes it easier, if you’re qualified to be a registered voter in California. That certainly has driven the numbers,” he said.  

Padilla said his office's partnership with various social media platforms to encourage voter registration showed clear correlations between when promotional campaigns ran online and days when online registration spiked. 

Another trend seen in the numbers is the increase of partisan voters. 

“This year has been a little bit of an exception to the trend of the last decade, where voter registration is a little bit more partisan than has been the case. The no-party-preference voter — the truly independent voter — was the group of voters that was increasing or growing at the largest rate," Padilla said. 

Not this year, though. Voters who declared themselves Democratic amounted to 45.2 percent of registered voters, with Republican registrants next at nearly 27 percent. 

“I think that’s a reflection of the political environment that we’re in and the presidential election cycle above all," Padilla said. 

Padilla urged Californians who have not yet registered to do so before the Oct. 24 deadline. Registered voters who wish to vary their status can make their changes on the Secretary of State's website any time before Election Day on Nov. 8.

Do you have your voter game plan? Use our Voter's Edge election guide to find your personalized ballot.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the overall share of California citizens who have registered to vote. KPCC regrets the error.