John Myers, Christine Mai-Duc and Ben Welsh report at The Los Angeles Times:
With nearly half a million registered members, the American Independent Party is bigger than all of California's other minor parties combined. The ultraconservative party's platform opposes abortion rights and same sex marriage, and calls for building a fence along the entire United States border.
Based in the Solano County home of one of its leaders, the AIP bills itself as “The Fastest Growing Political Party in California."
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.
That mistake could prevent people from casting votes in the June 7 presidential primary, California's most competitive in decades.
Voters from all walks of life were confused by the use of the word “independent” in the party’s name, according to The Times analysis.
Of the 500 AIP voters surveyed by a bipartisan team of pollsters, fewer than 4% could correctly identify their own registration as a member of the American Independent Party.
“That’s what we call a finding with real statistical viability,” said Ben Tulchin, a Democratic pollster who helped craft the survey in collaboration with The Times and Republican pollster Val Smith. “It’s overwhelming and it’s indisputable.”
Tulchin has done polling for Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign and Smith's firm has done polling of California Republican voters on their presidential preferences. No data from this poll, conducted on a pro-bono basis for The Times, was shared with any campaigns.
...In 2012, The New York Daily News found that the same thing had happened with the state's Independence Party:
After being read excerpts of the platform, more than 50% of those surveyed in the poll said they wanted to leave the American Independent Party. The more specific the platform position, the weaker the support of those surveyed. Most of the voters who were polled knew little, if anything, about the party to which they belong.
When he registered to vote last year, the 34-year-old Queens plumber checked a box beside the name Independence Party, believing he had filed to be independent of any party affiliation.
Informed of his mistake — one made by 85% of Independence Party enrollees interviewed by the Daily News — Marino got to the heart of the deception by which party leaders keep power and exercise undue influence over the ballot. He said:
“I registered as an independent. I didn’t intend to join the Independence Party. They are putting two words that are similar together. If you put them together in the same sentence, if you are not paying attention, you are not going to catch that. We all can’t make the same mistake.