For the first time recorded since January 2016, the Green Party of California (GPCA) has more than 100,000 registered members.
The California Secretary of State’s newest report of voter enrollment numbers, counted 154 days from the March 5, 2024, primary election, shows 101,620 people have joined the Greens in the Golden State. (There were 102,688 listed on January 5, 2016.)
While this is a relatively small figure, it is still important that documents on the Secretary of State’s website indicate party enrollment has been rising constantly since July 3, 2020, when 79,577 individuals formally identified as Greens. This report marked the end of a period of decline since October 2019.
Laura Wells, one of two official spokespeople for the GPCA, partially attributed the recent growth and once again crossing the 100,000-threshold to “disgust with the two-party offerings.”
“With Biden and what he’s done in the Ukraine and Israel, not to mention Cuba and all sorts of other things, that he has spent billions of dollars [on] and people in this country do not have healthcare, education is worsening, housing is worsening . . . those things are having an effect,” Wells said. “The Green Party has the values of the Californian and the American people – peace and nonviolence, justice, the environment, and a real democracy. And we don’t take corporate money.”
She also granted some credit to the excitement generated by academic and activist Cornel West’s contention for the 2024 Green presidential nomination – before he shifted to an independent campaign. She spoke of the potential the party had with him leading at the nationwide level.
“It was going to be a brilliant opportunity for the Green Party . . . to get out there and register people to vote – a big registration drive.”
While the GPCA’s site touts an ongoing drive, Wells was not aware of a large-scale one currently taking place or anticipated in the wake of West’s switch. What has complicated such an effort, Wells claimed, is more people are motivated to go Green when there is a high-profile personality involved with the national party or if ballot access is in question. Moreover, she cited the stigma against Greens as “spoilers” and prominent progressive campaigns within the Democratic Party, such as Bernie Sanders’ and Dennis Kucinich’s, that guide constituents away from the Greens, the latter the likely cause for decreasing totals near the 2020 and 2016 presidential primaries – and possibly what had the same impact around the 2004 and 2008 contests. (Voting in California Democratic presidential primaries has long required signing up as a Democrat or an independent.)
With the numbers increasing, the electorate’s attitudes towards the party may be changing, and it is on state Greens to continue to capture and maintain interest in their project.
Nevertheless, the GPCA still faces challenges, according to Wells, such as a limited budget that restricts their access to voter rolls and ability to reach out directly to Greens. In addition, it needs to recover organizing energy the worst of the pandemic, in part, depleted. In order for the party to recruit more Californians, engage and strategize with entrants whose commitment is flexible so as to prevent departures, and build electoral power from the local level up, anyone in the state dedicated to its vision should offer material assistance now. Through the GPCA website, supporters can donate money, learn ways to lend their time to the party, and even find a link to register Green if they have not already. Sustained service could eventually bring it past its highest totals recorded – 166,740 on September 30, 2003 – which it is closer to now than it was three years ago. And that service would validate what Wells described as a key reason for going Green: “to grow what you want in the world, not to shrink it, to use every little bit of power that you have.”