April Fool’s Day campaign aims to clear voter confusion

April Fool’s Day campaign aims to clear voter confusion

AIPrl foolHere’s a fact that’s no April Fool’s Day joke. A political party, which traces its history to the segregationist platform of Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace and his 1968 presidential bid, is the fastest growing political party in California.

The state that is home to more than 10 million immigrants and a quarter of America’s immigrant population is churning out new members of the American Independent Party at a record pace, according to voter registration statistics.

A group of savvy political veterans, calling themselves the AIPrl Fooled Campaign, says that the record number of sign-ups has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with voter confusion. And they are using this April Fool’s Day to alert independent voters that the American Independent Party is not the same thing as being politically independent.

“The creators of AIPrl Fooled don’t object to any political party, nor the right for the AIP to have a strongly ideological platform,” the group, which is being led by Mark Vargas, a member of the California Coastal Commission, said in a press release. “But given the political leanings of most registered voters in California, it is hard to believe that the AIP has become the fastest growing political party in the state for any reason other than voter confusion.”

Group: 95 percent of AIP from confusion

The group adds that, by their estimate, as much as 95 percent of the American Independent Party’s membership comes from voter confusion resulting from the party’s use of the word “independent” in its name.

There are plenty of high-profile political figures that have made that mistake. In 2008, former Los Angeles Police Chief and current Council Member Bernard Parks said he inadvertently registered AIP, thinking it was independent. The same goes for a 2012 candidate for San Diego County supervisorial candidate, Dave Roberts; and Jennifer Siebel, the wife of Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Some party leaders have acknowledged that some voters may have inadvertently signed up due to independent confusion. Other leaders say that the party’s growth comes from its conservative platform.

“We share all the Tea Party principles and go way beyond them,” Markham Robinson, the chair of the party’s executive committee, told LA Weekly. “We go along with the Declaration of Independence. That makes us radicals, doesn’t it?”

Possible disaffected GOP voters don’t explain increase

Its conservative platform could be attracting some disaffected California Republicans that have grown disenchanted by GOP support for liberal policies. Last year, California Republican legislators delivered the necessary votes for a $2.3 billion tax hike, while the state party has embraced gay and lesbian groups. In contrast, the American Independent Party is opposed to gay marriage, illegal immigration and abortion.

“Freed from the lawless oppression of Liberal rule, we may then compassionately and justly use our energy and ingenuity to provide for ourselves and our families,” the American Independent Party states in the “Freedom from Liberalism” section of its platform. “We will then establish truly free and responsible enterprise and reassert the basic human right to property.”

But the state’s data experts say that disaffected Republicans can’t explain the disproportionate rate at which Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans are joining the party.

“Over 60,000 voters registered as AIP are foreign born,” the AIPrl Fooled Campaign points out. “And a third of voters registered as AIP are under the age of 35.”

It also doesn’t explain why the American Independent Party has more members than the Green, Reform, Libertarian and Peace and Freedom parties combined.

Registration data: Split between GOP & Democrats

Paul Mitchell, vice president at Political Data Inc. and one of the state’s foremost voter data experts, says that 39,000 AIPs used to be Republicans, and 32,000 used to be Democrats.

“If these 39,000 former Republicans were there for a right-wing movement, you would see their candidates get more than 12 percent of their own turnout,” said Mitchell, one of the backers of the AIPrl Fooled Campaign.

The group says it isn’t trying to undermine or sponsor any party, and is merely trying to educate the public. That’s why this April Fool’s Day it has built a website, launched a Twitter account and distributed a blast email to educate AIP voters regarding their registration status.

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