Citizens fulfilling their civic duty by voting in the presidential primaries this year have faced a slew of problems. Voters in Maricopa County, Ariz., stood in line for hours, Donald Trump's children missed the deadline to register as Democrats and, according to The Los Angeles Times, thousands of Californians who thought they were registering as independent voters mistakenly registered with the American Independent Party (AIP), a far-right party that is pro border fence. Whoops.
The LA Times conducted a poll asking AIP members if they had meant to register as unaffiliated (or Independent) voters. Most of them said yes. From the Times:
With nearly half a million registered members, the American Independent Party is bigger than all of California's other minor parties combined… But a Times investigation has found that a majority of its members have registered with the party in error. Nearly three in four people did not realize they had joined the party, a survey of registered AIP voters conducted for The Times found.
According to the survey, voters weren't aware that in order to register as independents, they had to opt out of registering for a party altogether. Instead, many checked a box marked "American Independent Party," founded by segregationist George Wallace in 1967. That might be why the AIP has claimed about 500,000 members, including Sugar Ray Leonard, Demi Moore, Emma Stone, and Kaley Cuoco, per the LA Times. A representative for Moore told the Times that, “Demi Moore is not, nor has ever been, a member of the American Independent Party,” and Stone, Leonard, and Cuoco plan to re-register, according to their reps.
The error means that those who are registered with the AIP won't be able to vote for candidates not on the AIP ticket in the presidential primaries.
When you look at California's voter registration form, it's easy to see why someone might accidentally check the wrong box. When you arrive at the section titled, "Do you want to register with a political party?" the following options are presented to you:
You are first offered to check a box reading, "Yes, I want to register with a political party" and then the choice of the following: American Independent Party, Green Party, Peace and Freedom Party, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Libertarian Party, and Other party.
But if you want to register as an independent voter in California, you must check a second box immediately adjacent to this section that reads, "No, I don't want to register with a political party (If you check this box, you may not be able to vote for some primaries' candidates in primary elections.)"
In addition to supporting a border fence, the AIP also touts a number of beliefs that independent and liberal voters would likely not agree with, like:
- "We maintain that all humans are persons from the beginning of their biological development and especially deserve our love and nurture when they are weakest and most dependent."
- "We insist that marriage is between a man and a woman and assert the role of the law in establishing and reinforcing the mutual rights and obligations of that God-ordained contract."
- "We oppose all illegal immigration… We also insist that those who violate our immigration laws, be they illegal immigrants or their employer, be punished for their crime in a way that will deter them from future offenses.
- "We believe that all those who govern are the servants of God for the good of citizens. Therefore all governments are under God whether they like it or not!"
Markham Robinson, who chairs the AIP's executive committee, told the LA Times that the party has evolved on at least one issue. "We’re not segregationist anymore,” he said, adding, "What we are now is a conservative, constitutionalist party.” On Twitter, he has argued that the AIP has many members who didn't accidentally join the party.
And he isn't pleased with the Times' story.
But said the AIP website will see some changes as a result.
Voters who mistakenly registered for the AIP party have until May 23 to change their party affiliation.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.