Debra J. Saunders

Thanks to the 2003 gubernatorial recall and the 2005 special election, there has been at least one statewide election in California every year since 2002. Before the special election, wags were agog about "voter fatigue."

Make that voter flight. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen released the latest voter registration numbers yesterday, and the news is not good. California lost 1 million registered voters between 2005 and 2007. In a press release, Bowen explained that while part of the drop can be attributed to removing "deadwood" from voter rolls, "the state's population is continuing to grow, and the number of registered voters isn't."

The number of registered voters fell to 15.7 million from 16.7 million. There are fewer Democrats (6.7 million from 7.2 million), fewer Republicans (5.4 million down from 5.7 million) and even 20,000 fewer decline-to-state (fewer than 3 million) voters.

So what are the solons in Sacramento doing? Trying to make things worse. The Legislature just passed a measure, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems all but certain to sign, to create two primaries next year, a presidential primary on Feb. 5 and the usual California primary in June.

Add the November general election, quipped Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, and it still averages out to at least one election per year. Stern supports the early primary because, he says, it will give Californians a say in the presidential nominations -- and that's a good thing because "presidential politics turn people on" and get them interested in politics.

But considering California's voter fatigue, more say could mean fewer voters. With the exception of some GOP lawmakers who voted against the early primary because of the $60 million to $90 million cost to counties, Democratic and Republican biggies have been behind the early primary campaign. As California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres said in a statement, "During the 2004 election cycle, candidates withdrew $182 million in campaign cash from the 'California ATM,' but not a penny of it came back to be spent here. An early primary changes that dynamic."

Changes the dynamic? Yes, but the new dynamic could be that an early state primary -- with California, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Illinois in the game -- could have the whole country hating all the White House wannabes by November 2008.

Debra J. Saunders

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