Lee Lundrigan called it a “tsunami.”
The number of people in the Northern San Joaquin Valley registering to vote in time for the June 7 presidential primary and local elections is, as some would say, off the hook.
Last year, Lundrigan, the Stanislaus County registrar of voters, said an average of five people a day registered online. It’s easy to keep that number in mind; you can count them on one hand. This year, you would need 409 hands to count the voters who signed up to vote on a single day last week. On Tuesday, 2,047 people signed up to vote – one of the highest voter-registration days in memory at the Stanislaus County registrar’s office.
“Busy is not the word,” said Lundrigan. “It’s a tsunami. It’s almost something difficult to conceive of; it’s a lot, it’s a lot.”
The same is true in Merced County, where assistant registrar of voters David Sullivan was almost too busy to talk Friday. “We are getting tons of registration,” he said. “Our registration is growing in leaps and bounds.” A significant portion, he said, is coming in on paper cards because groups are doing voter-registration drives and are “dropping 300 or 400 cards on us” in chunks.
Sullivan did a quick count and said Merced County’s voter rolls have grown by 6,000 – or 6 percent – in the last 60 days and now stand at 91,000.
Merced County’s voter rolls have grown by 6,000 – or 6 percent – in the last 60 days and now stand at 91,000.
The numbers echo a surge from throughout California. Politicaldata Inc. reported 1.5 million new voters have registered in California this year; that was in April.
It might slack off a bit after Monday, the deadline to register in time for the June 7 primary. By then, there could be 2 million new voters in California. But both county offices expect the surge to resume in advance of the general election in November.
Statewide, registration growth has been greatest among Democrats – which the Bernie Sanders campaign is taking credit for. Democratic Party registration is up 218 percent from the same period in 2012. Republican Party registration has been growing, too, but is only 78 percent above 2012, says Political Data. Those who decline to state a party preference are up 74 percent.
In Stanislaus County, the increase has been a steady progression. On April 26, 138 people registered to vote; a week later, 148; a week after that, 447. Then came the really big number.
No doubt, some were changing addresses or re-registering to change party. Far more were registering with a specific purpose; you could call that number huge – or, if you prefer, “yuuuge.”
Lundrigan wouldn’t guess why people are registering in such larger numbers now. “I don’t know what you can draw from this, if that’s your goal,” she said. “We’re just trying to get them moved out (and onto the voter rolls).”
Sullivan felt the surge could be attributed to both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Sanders in Merced County.
Our guess is the high-visibility presidential primaries are driving registration. That’s a good thing. If people want to participate – for or against specific candidates – they must register. Those who haven’t are running out of time. But if they don’t make it, voters shouldn’t despair. There’s another election coming in November, and that one’s even more important than the primaries in June.