San Diego Registrar of Voters
The San Diego County Registrar of Voters on Election Day 2018. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This post originally appeared in the July 26 Sacramento Report. Get the Sacramento Report delivered to your inbox.

A lawsuit filed against California Secretary of State Alex Padilla last week by a San Diego-based group seeks to change the way California conducts its presidential primaries. But Padilla and San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez have their own ideas about how to reform the process.

The lawsuit, filed by the Independent Voter Project, which is being represented by Cory Briggs and elections attorney Chad Peace, asks the court to declare the current process unconstitutional and to compel a truly “open presidential primary.” Though the players are mostly San Diego-based, the lawsuit was filed in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Under the current process, voters who are registered as No Party Preference can vote in the Democratic presidential primary if they request a ballot in advance. The Republican Party, however, doesn’t allow those voters to take part in the Republican presidential primary unless they switch their registration.

One of the plaintiffs in the case is Jeff Marston, a former Republican assemblyman representing San Diego, whom the lawsuit notes “would like the opportunity to vote in the primary election for a presidential candidate other than a Republican without being forced to change his party preference.”

The Independent Voter Project’s preferred solution is to issue No Party Preference voters a ballot that includes all presidential contenders. But because political parties don’t have to allow non-members to vote in their primaries, those parties would be able to choose whether to count those votes.

Meanwhile, Padilla, the defendant in the suit, supports a separate proposed change to the presidential primary system in the form of AB 681, written by Gonzalez (who is herself running for secretary of state when Padilla is termed out in 2022).

The bill would require county elections officials to send two different notices to voters informing them of their current party preference and information on the type of ballot they’ll be allowed to cast in the presidential primary. It would also allow voters to change their party preference without re-registering to vote.

But it stops short of allowing independent voters to vote for any presidential primary candidate, the change being sought by the Independent Voter Project.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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