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Has the GOP Lost Its Power in California?

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Photo: Jessica Levinson
Photo: Jessica Levinson

This weekend Adam Nagourney wrote a wonderful article in the New York Times in which he asked whether the Republican Party is in a state of decline in California.

Upon reading the headline I thought of my experience at a polling place in the Los Angeles area last month. When I was there I noticed something about the voting machines: The ratio of Democratic polling voting machines to Republican voting machines was quite high. While there were three machines for Democrats, there was one for Republicans, one for both members of the American Independent and Green parties, and another for both members of the Libertarian and the Peace and Freedom parties. The ratio makes some sense given party registration numbers.

Republicans account for approximately one in three registered voters, Democrats make up over forty percent of registered voters, and Decline to State Voters, such as myself, make up more than one in five registered voters. If registration patterns are any indication, registered Republicans could soon be the third largest group of the electorate, behind Democrats and voters listing no party preference.

Democrats hold all of the statewide offices in California. In addition, Democrats make up a majority of members of both legislative houses. The big question for November will be whether Democrats are able to pick up enough seats to number two-thirds of a legislative house. This is key because it takes two-thirds of both houses to increase taxes or fees, obtaining that threshold could make a big difference.

Nagourney points to the fact that on the national level Republicans are focused on social issues. Those conservative stances on social issues may not be the way to keep Republicans in California, or to stay independent voters.

Is there a ray of hope for Republicans? Perhaps. Conventional wisdom would dictate that because our fine state seems to be the poster child for dysfunction, voters may move away from the party in power.

I think it is more likely that voters just continue to move away from the two major parties.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government every Monday. She is an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School. Read more of her posts here.

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