Decline to State Voters and the Primary Election in CA

It appears that for the first time in recent memory, California’s primary election will matter in the selection of the Republican presidential candidate, and possibly in the Democrat race as well. This possibility will more than likely result in a much higher than normal voter turnout as citizens want to have input in the choice of the candidates of the highest elected position in the country, the President of the United States! To ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to vote for their candidate of choice, it is time to clarify what has become a very confusing procedure related to the top-two open primary in California, particularly for Decline to State voters. Even though Proposition 14, passed in 2010, created a “top two” open primary in California, the presidential primary DOES NOT fall under that provision.  The decision regarding who gets to vote in each party’s presidential primary is determined by the state party organizations.

  • In California, the American Independent, Libertarian and Democrat parties allow their primary to be “open”, meaning anyone registered with their party or as a Decline to State voter may request their ballot.
  • The other parties, including the Republican Party, conduct a closed primary, meaning that only voters registered with their specific party may vote in their presidential primary.
  • Decline to State voters may also request a non-partisan ballot, which will not include any of the presidential candidate options.

The law requires that Decline to State voters be given a choice of ballots.

  • Those who vote by mail should receive a notification asking them to make a choice from among the ballots to which they are entitled.
  • Those who vote in person must be asked to make the choice at the polls.
  • Any Decline to State voter who is handed any ballot without being asked to make that choice should immediately notify the election clerk of the error, and report the oversight to Election Integrity Project.

If Decline to State voters wish to participate in the Republican primary, they must reregister and request a change of party. Those wishing to participate in the Democrat primary need only make that selection when asked, without reregistering. The Deadline for Registering or Re-registering is May 23th Warning: Waiting until May is likely to generate confusion and error. Mail-in ballot voters should re-register long in advance of when the ballots will be mailed out, which will be early in May. Though such changes may be done through the online system, voters would be wise to straighten things out in person at the Registrar of Voters office, just to avoid confusion. If they choose the online option, they should definitely follow up with phone calls. After the primary, voters wishing to resume their Decline to State status may follow the same process and re-register again after the primary. Knowing your choices allows your vote to matter. For questions, contact us at