I approached my designated polling place, a fire station here in the San Fernando Valley. The line was out the door and up the block for about 75 yards. I had a few things to do, so I decided to come back in a few minutes. A half-hour or so later, I was back. Same long line, but I did see a parking space, so I bit the figurative ballot and pulled in. Warm day here in the Valley, with forecasters calling for a high of 83 degrees, so I wasn’t looking forward to a long wait in line. As I approached, an elderly woman wearing a polling-place worker’s hat and vest asked to see my voter’s information pamphlet. Obediently, I handed it to her. I knew she was there to help and instinctively appreciated anything she might be able to do. “Follow me” she said, as she walked me past the line and into the fire station leaving the masses behind. “Go to the orange table,” she said.
It was the table for independent voters, or “decline to state” voters, as we’re called here in California. Whatever you call it, I’m one of them, and we’re growing in numbers. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, “The percentage of California voters registered as independents, also known as “decline to state” or “no party preference” voters, reached a record high of 21.3% in the June 2012 primary election. This marks an 11-point increase since the 1992 presidential election (10.3%). Over the same period, the percentage of registered voters in each of the major parties has fallen: Republicans from 37% to 30.2% and Democrats from 49.1% to 43.4%.”
I have no idea if our growing numbers means we are commanding more respect at the polls, but for whatever reason, I experienced no waiting at all. Even after they signed me in and handed me my ballot, I was charmed. “You can vote at any one of these,” said a young man, pointing at a dozen or so voting kiosks set up at one end of the fire station. He probably should have said, “You can vote at any one that’s open.” Now you might think they would all be occupied, like trying to find an open cashier at the supermarket (good luck with that), but no. One was open. Wide open. I stepped up, inserted my ballot in the little ballot thingie and inked in my choices.
It was almost too easy. An electoral breeze. I surmise that the long line outside was made up of Democrats and Republicans. Those who had declared their allegiance and were unable to take advantage of the miracle of the orange table.
The Democrats and Republicans had better get with it. The winds of change are clearly blowing away from party affiliation. Even here in ultra-blue California.