Is The California Primary Open Or Closed? The Golden State Does Things A Little Different

The time has finally come for the long awaited California primary, which will definitively decide the winner of the Democratic nomination for president and close out the primary season with the most delegate-rich state in the union. The voting process on the West Coast will be closely watched as Californians head to the polls on Tuesday, and there's one aspect of California's electorate procedure that will make this primary unique. Is the California primary open or closed? The Golden State Democrats mix things up in their primary system, using a modified primary instead.

A modified primary is between an open and closed primary, meaning some voters who aren't registered with the Democratic party, but not all, are allowed to vote in the primary. For California, unaffiliated voters, those who did not state a preference on their voter registration card, can vote in the Democratic primary. Unfortunately, this excludes the three percent of California's 17.3 million voters who are registered with the American Independent Party, a far-right-wing party started by racist, segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace in 1967. About 73 percent of Californians registered with the AIP said it was a mistake on their voter registration form, but the technicality still prohibits them from voting in the Democratic primary.

What this means for California is a slight advantage towards Hillary Clinton. Sanders has benefited most from states' open primaries, when his campaign can attract the most independent voters. Since a sizable portion of the California electorate is accidentally affiliated with a party they didn't mean to choose, a big chunk of Sanders' base will be missing from the polls on Tuesday. Yet even without those voters, Clinton and Sanders are neck and neck in the polls, and it really is a toss up to see who will come out on top of the statewide race. However, it doesn't really matter who the nominal winner is — Clinton will score the 50 delegates she needs to reach the magic 2383 number she needs to automatically secure the nomination no matter what. The only reason Clinton really needs the win is to avoid a source of criticism from her general election rival Donald Trump.

The Republicans utilize the standard closed primary system, and of course there's only one candidate still left in the race, so there shouldn't be any surprises there on Tuesday. As for the Democrats, the quirk in California's primary rules could have a slight impact on the outcome of the election, but the results of the California primary are essentially predetermined for both parties.