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Early California Primary Could Increase State Influence, Among Other Changes

Image of man holding voter registration sign.
annie bolin via Unsplash

The California presidential primary happens early this year. It could have a bigger influence on who becomes the Democratic presidential challenger.

This year, California will hold its primary the same day as Texas, North Carolina and more than a dozen other states and jurisdictions: March 3rd, also known as Super Tuesday. The change is because of a 2017 decision from the state legislature.  

With an earlier primary, California will have a bigger influence for candidates to lead their parties into the November election.

California has 415 pledged delegates, more than any other state. By comparison, Iowa, one of the states often considered to be a bellwether for presidential nominees, has just 41 pledged delegates.

An earlier primary could also bring out more voters.

“I hope it helps people know that the election is coming, because we’ll be part of that national push,” says Shasta County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen.

The 2020 primary will also bring changes in party registration. Non-partisan voters in California need to re-register as Republican, Green Party or Peace and Freedom Party if they want to vote with them.

“In this community, a lot of people want to vote for that Republican ticket. Those non-partisan folks are allowed to do that but they have to re-register to vote as a Republican in order to vote on the Republican ballot,” Allen says.

The state’s other parties, Democrats, Independents and Libertarians, do allow non-partisan voters to help choose their candidates.

The deadline to register online or by mail is on February 18th.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.