A Bernie Sanders mural in downtown Los Angeles. (via Flickr)

The California primary election is around the corner, and tension between the Democratic presidential candidates is on the rise. The latest move from Californians “feeling the Bern” is not likely to ease the pressure.

On May 20, a group of plaintiffs who support Bernie Sanders filed a lawsuit alleging that confusion over California’s complicated primary registration system is disenfranchising thousands of the state’s voters. The Los Angeles Times explains:

At issue is whether voters understand the rules for the presidential primary, which differ from those governing other elections in California.

Unlike statewide primaries — where voters now choose any candidate, no matter the political party — the presidential contests are controlled by the parties themselves. Democrats have opened up their primary between Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to voters that have no political affiliation, known in California as having “no party preference.” But the lawsuit alleges elections officials in some of California’s 58 counties aren’t making that clear to these unaffiliated voters.

William Simpich, an Oakland civil rights attorney, told the L.A. Times, “Mistakes are being made.” As RT notes, there are more than 4.1 million California voters who are registered without a party preference — and it has been shown that independent voters lean toward Sanders.

This lawsuit echoes similar voter registration complaints heard in other primaries. In New York, for example, it is estimated that 27 percent of registered voters were unable to vote in the presidential primaries because they hadn’t changed their party registration months earlier.

Simpich and the other plaintiffs, writes the L.A. Times, hope to get a judge to “require state elections officials to conduct a broad public awareness campaign about the voting rules before May 31, the deadline for requesting a ballot by mail.” Interestingly, the American Independent Party (which made headlines recently for its confusing name) is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Additionally, “the registrars of voters in San Francisco and Alameda counties as well as Secretary of State Alex Padilla” are listed as defendants.

A federal judge has set a hearing for the case on August 18, and thus the lawsuit will most likely not affect the June 7 primary. It is unclear how a judge might rule in the case, although the plaintiffs “are asking that non-partisan voters be allowed to write in a presidential candidate” and are also seeking a registration extension to June 7 (Election Day), reports RT. If the case is not settled in time for the primary, it will become another example of Americans’ dissatisfaction with voting systems that has been felt across the country this election season.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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