While primaries and caucuses are underway in six states today, most of the nation’s attention is focused on California—the largest state in the union. In addition to the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders race, voters will be deciding who will face off in November to succeed U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. Thanks to a 2010 state law, California voters are expected to choose between two Democrats: California Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Representative Loretta Sánchez. We are joined by Rose Aguilar, host of “Your Call,” a daily public affairs radio show on NPR-affiliate KALW in San Francisco.
AMY GOODMAN: Voters are heading to the polls in six states today, but most of the nation’s attention is focused on California, the largest state in the union. In addition to the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders race, voters will be deciding who will face off in November to succeed U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. Thanks to a 2010 state law, California voters are expected to choose two Democrats: state Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Representative Loretta Sánchez. To talk more about today’s primary in California, we’re joined by Rose Aguilar, host of Your Call, a daily public affairs radio show on NPR-affiliate KALW in San Francisco.
Rose, welcome to Democracy Now! First, your response on AP and NBC News calling the—naming Hillary Clinton as the Democratic presidential—the presumptive nominee.
ROSE AGUILAR: Well, this is the first time in decades that California’s primary actually matters, and it’s amazing to see so much excitement in the state. And I was at the event in San Francisco last night, attended by about 10,000 people, and the breaking news came down while we were at the rally. And a lot of people were so disappointed, because they feel like it will deter people from actually voting. And in addition to president, as you said, we’re going to choose a Senator. We have a lot of really important races down ticket. In San Francisco, we have a very important race with the local Democrats. And so people were really disappointed by this and said, “Look, people are already disenchanted with this process, and we need as many people as we can to go to the polls.”
The other thing that’s exciting, Amy, is so many people have registered in California. I mean, this is a massive state. We’ve got about 40 million people in California. There are now 17 million people who are registered to vote. In the last two months running up to the election, we had 600,000 new registrants. So a lot of people are excited. And an announcement like this on the day before the California primary sends a really bad message to voters. And I heard that at the rally last night.
AMY GOODMAN: And to be clear, you were at the Bernie Sanders rally, is that right?
ROSE AGUILAR: Right, at the Bernie Sanders rally, right, last night in San Francisco.
AMY GOODMAN: And did he address this issue? Though he knew at that point that the race had basically been called, did he address it when he was speaking to all of you?
ROSE AGUILAR: No, he didn’t really address it. He did say that he’s taking this all the way to the convention. But that’s about it. He didn’t go much further than that.
AMY GOODMAN: KCRA is reporting that California’s primary voting process has excluded tens of thousands of independent voters from voting in the presidential primary so far, and those numbers are expected to grow, according to information provided to KCRA 3 by a leading political data firm. Can you explain how it works? I mean, in New York it was a closed primary. If you wanted to vote in the Democratic primary and you were an independent, you had to announce this—you had to decide this like months before, before any debate, before any primary, before it was clear it would be this close. So, millions of people couldn’t vote. Explain how it works. Voting rights advocates say California’s process for voting as an independent in the presidential primary is confusing. This is part of a PSA created by the nonprofit Independent Voter Project to help explain the process to voters.
INDEPENDENT VOTER PROJECT PSA: The Democratic, Libertarian and American Independent parties let you vote for their candidates as long as you’re not a member of another party. These parties have a semi-closed primary that lets independents or no-party-preference voters request a ballot. If you want to vote for these party candidate and receive your ballot by mail, you need to call your county registrar before May 31st and tell them to send the ballot you want, or you’ll get a ballot with no presidential candidates. If you miss the May 31st deadline, you can still vote at the polls, where, as an independent, you need to request a ballot for the party candidates you want.
AMY GOODMAN: So, if you could explain, Rose Aguilar, what that means today? When people go to the polls, what are they supposed to ask for?
ROSE AGUILAR: All right, this is really confusing, but here’s what you need to do. If you are a no-party-preference voter—and, Amy, in California, it’s not even independent. The independents are actually no party preference. So if you are a no-party-preference voter and you want to vote for a Democrat for president, you have to ask for a crossover ballot. And they legally have to give you one. So, again, ask for a crossover ballot. Try to go to the polls early, because, Amy, I’m already hearing reports, people are really concerned, that polling places are going to run out of ballots, because we’ve had such a massive voter surge in this—in California.
Now, you cited the report from KCRA, and these numbers are really astonishing. So 250,000 people have turned in their ballots, and this organization did an exit poll and asked these people, “All right, how many of you turned in a ballot without voting for a president?” It was 42 percent. They wanted to vote for president, and they didn’t. And they wanted to vote for a Democrat. So that’s almost half. That’s about 125,000 people in the state of California—
AMY GOODMAN: Why didn’t they vote?
ROSE AGUILAR: —have already voted without voting for a president. And 57 percent of those voters said they wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders. So people are turning in ballots without voting for a president. So you have to ask for a crossover ballot.
Now, to make matters even more confusing, the Los Angeles Times had a really good report about a month ago and found that 500,000 Californians checked off the American Independent Party box, thinking, well, that’s the independent party, right? Seems logical. That is an ultra, ultra-right party in California, the American Independent Party. And the L.A. Times found that 75 percent of those voters had no idea it was an ultra-right party. So, it’s really shameful that the rules are so confusing.
And then, to make matters even more confusing, if you live in San Francisco and you want to vote in our very important Democratic Central Committee race, you have to be a Democrat. And it’s too late to change. So if you’re a no-party-preference voter and you ask for a crossover ballot, you can vote for a Democratic president, but you cannot vote in the DCCC race in San Francisco. And I really wish the state would have done a better job of getting the word out. I wish the media had done a better job of getting the word out. We tried. We did what we could. But, you know, I’ve been paying attention, and I haven’t seen many PSAs. I haven’t really heard much about this. And it’s such an important issue, because people are going to be so upset if they can’t vote for president. And 125,000 people in California have already turned in their ballots without voting for president.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain why, just very quickly. I didn’t understand why they did get a ballot, but did not check the box for president.
ROSE AGUILAR: Well, there is no president on the ballot. If you’re a no-party-preference voter, there’s no president on your ballot. You have to request a Democratic ballot. So you either had to call in, or, you know, if you’re vote by mail, you had to do it in advance. But right now, what you can do today if you live in California, you need to take your ballot, if you’re a vote-by-mail voter, take your ballot into the polling place with you and ask for a crossover ballot. If you’re not vote by mail, go early and ask for a crossover ballot, because we’re really concerned that these polling places are going to run out of ballots, because so many people, hopefully, will be requesting a Democratic ballot to vote for president.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Rose, something else that’s unusual in California, explain the Senate race that’s taking place, how the system works right now, that could lead to only Democrats on the ballot for the Senate race. Explain who’s running and how you vote.
ROSE AGUILAR: Right. So, we’ve only had two debates for Senate. And frankly, they weren’t that exciting. The president’s getting all the attention. Our down-ticket races aren’t getting that much attention. And this is such an important race. So, Kamala Harris and Loretta Sánchez are the two Democrats at the top of the ticket. A lot of the Republicans, most people have never heard of. There are third-party candidates running, but, of course, in this system, they’re not getting any media coverage. They were not invited to take part in the debate. The voters decided that they wanted the top two vote-getters to be on the ballot, regardless of party. And so, the Republican Party is not doing well in California. I mean, the Democrats pretty much control this state. That’s a wide-known fact. And we’re probably going to have Kamala Harris and Loretta Sánchez on the ballot, two Democrats. And what’s going to happen is the Republican Party will most likely vote for Loretta Sánchez, because she’s the more sort of moderate Democrat on certain issues. And it’s just a strange system. The Republicans really are not—they don’t really have a chance when it comes to running for Senate in the state of California.
AMY GOODMAN: You were at the Bernie Sanders rally last night. What do you think will happen with the Bernie Sanders camp? I mean, we still don’t know. Right to the end—
ROSE AGUILAR: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —we cannot predict what will happen right up to the convention. But how do you think—what do you think needs to happen?
ROSE AGUILAR: Well, Amy, just listening to your last interview talking about all these ridiculous things that Trump has said, I am afraid that the next five to six months it’s going to be Trump said something ludicrous, Hillary Clinton responded, and we’re not going to talk about issues, we’re not going to talk about things that really matter to people.
And I think it’s important to remember that this time last year, Bernie Sanders was 63 points behind Hillary Clinton, one of the most well-known politicians in the world. And at this time last year, most people had never heard of Bernie Sanders. They didn’t know who he was. The media didn’t take him seriously. They called him the old socialist who has a bad haircut. “How is he going to get these ideas passed—universal healthcare, free tuition for public—people who go to public schools, banning fracking, overturning the death penalty? These are radical ideas,” we heard, when, in fact, if Bernie Sanders was in many countries in Europe, these are center-right positions. We don’t really talk about that much.
AMY GOODMAN: Rose Aguilar, we’re going to have to leave it there.
ROSE AGUILAR: We don’t really—
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, host of Your Call, daily public affairs radio show on NPR-affiliate KALW in San Francisco.
I’ll be speaking in Chicago on Saturday. That’s June 11th. Check our website.