States' Rights, Segregation, Voter Suppression... Do these ideological extremes sound like a neutral voice in the political process?
So you're a new California voter, likely young and of color, and you follow the trends of your demographic and eschew party labels. You think of yourself as informed, neutral, fact-based and repulsed by knee-jerk ideological arguments. You believe yourself to be independent. Would not the American Independent Party be for you?
Credit the Los Angeles Times for holding the American Independent Party accountable for its extremist views while informing unknowing members of the public of this party's affiliation with what the Southern Poverty Law Center or Anti-Defamation League could easily classify as hate speech fronting as a legitimate political discourse.
So why all the confusion? In California, voters who do not wish to identify with either major party can register as a member of a third party or as "No-Party-Preference." This uncommon verbiage means the same thing as a registered "Independent" in other states.
Most people believe and can understand that there are two major options in declaring partisan allegiance and a third option is to be registered as politically neutral or of a less popular political party. Prominent examples include the Green Party and the Peace and Freedom Parties (generally more aligned with progressive California voter attitudes). Another entity listed on voter registration cards in California is, you've got it, the American Independent Party...the party of Lester Maddox of Georgia and George Wallace of Alabama.
Would you believe that in forward thinking California, a throw-back/right-wing political party would have more than double the membership of a party founded on protecting the environment or another formed to promote peace?
The American Independent Party's registration advantage compared to other political parties is a surprise to all. Those often most surprised are the three quarters of the American Independent Party's members who when polled and contacted have consistently indicated that they were not aware of their own party's history of promoting exclusion and separatism.
I served as Chair of the California Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting for a time and this issue of the confusing nature of what it means to be an independent voter in California was a task left incomplete.
I intend to address the issue in the near future by working with California's progressive Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Los Angeles County's dynamic Registrar of Voters Dean Logan as well as public interest groups and political parties themselves to better define for the voting public what it means to be independent.
This is critical for democracy to have complete information and a well-informed electorate. Confusing voter categories undermine transparency and accountability in elections.