Making Democracy Work

Political Parties

This page is intended to educate the public not just about California's political parties, but about what makes a political party.

What is a Party?

A political party is made up of individuals who organize to win elections, operate government, and influence public policy by seeking to improve the government policy, usually by nominating candidates with aligned political views and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns and educational outreach or protest actions. Parties often espouse an ideology or vision, expressed in a party program, bolstered by a written platform with specific goals, forming a coalition among interests.

How to Create a Political Party

Qualification Process

In the state of California, political parties must be registered by the Secretary of State to put candidates on state ballots. In order to become officially registered, those wishing to form a party must first hold a caucus to elect temporary officers and then file a formal notice with the Secretary of State. One of two methods may be used for the party to be qualified by the state government.

  • Voter Registration Method: To qualify a new political party by voter registration requires that 103,004 (1% of 10,300,392 votes cast at the last gubernatorial election) persons complete an affidavit of registration, on which they have disclosed a preference for the political body intending to qualify as a political party, by writing in the name of the political body. Either 1% of the registered voters in the last gubernatorial election must change their party affiliation
  • Petition Method: To qualify a new political party by petition, no later than 135 days prior to the primary election, the Secretary of State must determine if a political body intending to qualify collected 1,030,040 petition signatures of registered voters. 10% of the voters can simply sign a petition.

If one of these goals is accomplished, congratulations! You have just created a new political party.

Maintaining Qualification Status

Once qualified, a political party maintains its qualified status by:

Retaining registrants representing at least 1/15 of 1% (.00067%) of the total state registration and having one of its statewide candidates receive at least 2% of the entire vote of the state for that office at the preceding gubernatorial election or retaining statewide registration equaling at least 1% of the total votes cast at the preceding gubernatorial election

If the Political Body Fails to Qualify as a Political Party

If by the 135th day before any primary election, a political body has not qualified as a political party, the political body shall be considered to have abandoned its attempt to qualify as a political party and shall be ineligible to participate in the following primary.

How to Choose a Political Party

Choose a political party that has the same general views you do. For example, some political parties think that government should do more for people. Others feel that government should make it easier for people to do things for themselves.

If you do not want to join a political party, mark that box on your voter registration form. This is called "no party preference." Know that if you do, you may have limited choices for party candidates in Presidential primary elections.

You can change your political party registration at any time. Just fill out a new voter registration form and check a different party box. The deadline to change your party is 15 days before the election. If you are not registered with a political party and want to vote for a Presidential candidate from a party that lets you vote with their ballot, you must ask for that ballot when you go to your polling place on election day. If you plan to vote by mail, you must write on the application the name of the political party whose ballot you want to use. If you want to be able to vote for a Presidential candidate from a political party that does not let you vote with their ballot, you need to fill out a new registration form and choose to join that party. Send it to your County Elections office by the registration deadline 15 days before the election. Or you may register online at California Secretary of State.

The League does not support or oppose candidates or political parties.

Official Party Links

These political parties qualified for the June 3, 2014, Primary Election:

American Independent

California Site No National and LA County Site available.

Americans Elect

National Site No California and LA County Site available.

Democratic Party

National Site - California Site - LA County Site

Green Party

National Site - California Site - LA County Site

Libertarian

National Site - California Site - LA County Site

Peace and Freedom

National Site - California Site - LA County Site

Republican Party

National Site - California Site - LA County Site

The Open Primary System and Its Effect on Elections

On January 1, 2011 the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act took effect, dramatically reshaping the California voting system. Under the system, a candidate's political party has no effect on how the election is conducted - all candidates running for a statewide or congressional office appear on the ballot. The two candidates who receive the highest percentage of votes move on to the general election, regardless of party affiliation . This means it is possible for two candidates from the same party to advance to the general election. Read more about the "Top Two Primary" here .