Tuesday: last day to register for the primaries

January 22, 2008 10:22:45 PM PST
Tuesday was the last day to register to vote for California's February 5th presidential primary, and there are signs the new earlier date will boost voter turnout.

The presidential candidates had to tweak their campaign strategies to vie for the state's changing electorate.

Even the wet weather didn't stop eager election workers and volunteers from urging Californians to register to vote.

All across the state, drive-through sign-ups and walk-up tables were at-the-ready to help people beat the midnight deadline.

"We're about 500,000 voters ahead of where we were a this time before the last statewide election," said Debra Bowen (D) California Secretary of State.

With the Presidential Primary in California early enough to make a difference in the national outcome, it seems to be bringing new voters out of the woodwork. At U.C. Davis alone, more than a thousand students registered in the last week.

"It's the first time a woman is running for President of this whole country and the first time a black man is running that has a reasonable chance. So I think it's historic," said newly register voter Vincent Wyatt.

The fastest growing party in California is Decline-To-State, or the independent voter, now roughly making up 20-percent.

Because they can trade in their non-partisan ballot for a Democratic one, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are pushing hard to win their votes. They also see the exploding Latino population as key, an estimated 2.8 million.

Just today, Senator Clinton stumped in Salinas, which is 65-percent Latino. But many Presidential candidates, including Republicans, see absentee voters as the rich prize, possibly more than four million, nearly half of the electorate, voting early by mail.

"You can't ignore it. You are, in all probability, not going to have a successful campaign if you ignore the absentee voters," said Kim Mack from the Barack Obama Campaign.

"Phone banking becomes critical. And I know people get annoyed at those phone calls, but we also want to remind them to turn in their ballots," said Rob Stutzman from the Mitt Romney Campaign.

Because the primary is earlier than ever, excitement is high and the races are wide open, the Secretary of State will not be forecasting voter turnout.