California sets record as voter registration tops 19 million

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's voter registration has hit an all-time high ahead of the November election, with more than 19 million people on the voting rolls, Secretary of State Alex Padilla reported Tuesday.

Nearly 76 percent of those eligible to vote were registered as of Sept. 7, the largest share in September since the 1996 presidential election, which had 77 percent.

Californians are increasingly turning away from political parties and registering as "no party preference" voters, a trend that has gained steam over the past two decades.

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Republicans and Democrats both saw their ranks shrink between May — before the primary — and September, while the number of unaffiliated voters rose. Just under 44 percent of registered voters were Democrats, 27 percent were unaffiliated and 25 percent were Republicans.

The major parties have lost members between May and September in every election cycle since 2002. Still, Democratic registration is up since the 2016 election, while Republican registration is down.

Padilla did not offer an explanation for the record number of registered voters but said people can still sign up until Oct. 22.

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"The next step for our registered Californians is turning out to vote," Padilla said in a statement. "The general election is next month, so it's time for voters to make a plan to vote, either in person or by mail."

California implemented a program this year that allows voters to register or update their address at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

While top-of-the-ticket races for governor and U.S. Senate have been relatively sleepy, California has several hotly contested races being watched nationally that could determine which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives.

Nearly 835,000 more people were registered 60 days before the election than two years ago, a sizable jump even though presidential years like 2016 generally see higher levels of engagement. Registration is up by almost 1.5 million people since the last election for governor in 2014.

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