On Tuesday, voters in California will head to the polls for one of the last — and perhaps one of the most decisive — Democratic primaries of this year's election process. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton seem to be revving up for a close race in the Golden State, and it could all come down to how many, and which, voters turn out to the polls. Although actual voter turnout is nearly impossible to predict, California's voter registration could be the most important indicator of Tuesday's momentous primary.
For much of the Democratic race, Clinton has dominated the polls. In fact, it's almost hard to believe that the some umpteen Republican candidates fell to Donald Trump before Clinton officially beat Sanders. Now, Clinton is expected to clinch her party's nomination with a win in New Jersey on Tuesday, however Sanders would like to at least contend for a contested convention with a win in California later that night.
If voter turnout goes his way, Sanders might just get that chance. With its overwhelmingly large and diverse population, California always has an important say in the country's elections. This year, however, it seems that the state's voters are more enthusiastic about that say than ever before.
Ahead of Tuesday's primary, California voter registration hit a record high. In the six weeks prior to the state's May 23 voter registration deadline, some 646,220 Californians registered to vote. That late surge boosted the state's total registered population to almost 18 million, the highest total ever recorded in the state. In other words, more than 72 percent of eligible voters in California have registered, according to the California secretary of state's office. More than three-quarters of those recent registrants are Democrat, which isn't surprising since the Republican primary is effectively irrelevant at this point.
If voter registration is any indication, California's voter turnout could run higher than average. Voter turnout in other states could also be an indication. High voter turnout has characterized many of this year's primaries, likely because of the highly competitive races and the buzz-worthy candidates. Still, the pivotal question in California remains: Who will actually cast a vote ahead of or on election day?
Although it's sometimes risky to make generalizations, the demographics of California's registered voters could point to some predictions about Tuesday's results. For instance, among those who have registered, 2.3 million are new voters, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. Two-thirds of those new voters are young, under 35 years old, and 26 percent are Latino. Clinton typically does well among non-white voters, but her strength among Latino voters has fluctuated greatly in the wake of Sanders. Additionally, Sanders tends to do well among young people.
These generalizations aren't necessarily rules, but rather observations throughout this year's race so far — and they certainly corroborate the idea that Tuesday's Democratic primary in California could be a close one. Clinton is still narrowly expected to win by many accounts, but Sanders' impact on the Democratic Party should not be discounted.