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When you register to vote, you may affiliate with any qualified or unqualified political party, or you may decline to state a political party choice.
The qualified political parties in California are: the American Independent Party, the Democratic Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Peace and Freedom Party and the Republican Party.
All voters may vote for any candidate for a voter-nominated office, provided they meet the other qualifications required to vote for that office. The top two vote-getters at the primary election advance to the general election for the voter-nominated office, even if both candidates have specified the same party preference designation.
When you register to vote, you may affiliate with any qualified or unqualified political party, or you may decline to state a political party choice. If you register without indicating your political party preference, register with an unqualified political party, or decline to state a party preference, you will be considered a non-partisan voter.
To change your political party preference, you must re-register at least 15 days prior to an election. Prior to a Presidential primary election, you will be sent a County Voter Information Guide based on the party preference (or lack thereof) indicated on your voter registration form.
- American Independent
- Peace and Freedom
The term "party preference" is now used in place of the term "party affiliation." A candidate must indicate his or her preference or lack of preference for a qualified political party. If the candidate has a qualified political party preference, that qualified political party will be indicated by the candidate's name on the ballot. If a candidate does not have a party preference, "Party Preference: None" will be indicated by the candidate's name on the ballot.
Similarly, voters who were previously known as "decline-to-state" voters (because they did not have a party affiliation) are now known as having "no party preference" or known as "NPP" voters.
Abbreviations for the qualified political parties are:
- DEM = Democratic Party
- REP = Republican Party
- AI = American Independent Party
- GRN = Green Party
- LIB = Libertarian Party
- PF = Peace & Freedom Party
For information on each party, visit Secretary of State Qualified Political Parties.
Note: "Independent" is a commonly used phrase, but does not specify a political party. Voters who prefer to be non-partisan are called “No Party Preference” rather than “independent.” Please read all information on this page carefully before indicating your political party choice on the registration form.
On June 8, 2010, California voters approved Proposition 14, which created the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act. Except for the offices of U.S. President and county central committee members, offices that used to be known as "partisan offices" (e.g., state constitutional offices, U.S. Congress, and state legislative offices) are now known as "voter-nominated" offices.
Prior to the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, candidates for a partisan office would have the political party they were registered with listed next to or below their names on the Primary and General Election ballots. A candidate who won a Primary Election was then considered to be the official nominee of his or her political party.
Now, under the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, candidates for voter-nominated offices can choose whether to list their party preference on the Primary and General Election ballots. Political parties can no longer formally nominate candidates for voter-nominated offices, so a candidate who finishes in the top two at the Primary Election and advances to the General Election is not the official nominee of any party for the office.
- Voter-Nominated Office Definition
- (a) “Voter-nominated office” means a congressional or state elective office for which a candidate may choose to have his or her party preference or lack of party preference indicated upon the ballot. A political party or party central committee shall not nominate a candidate at a state-conducted primary election for a voter-nominated office. The primary conducted for a voter-nominated office does not serve to determine the nominees of a political party but serves to compare the candidates for the general election to the candidates receiving the highest or second highest number of votes cast at the primary election. The following are voter-nominated offices:
- Lieutenant Governor
- Secretary of State
- Attorney General
- Insurance Commissioner
- Member of the State Board of Equalization
- United States Senator
- Member of the United States House of Representatives
- State Senator
- Member of the Assembly