SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- For the first time, Republicans are the third largest bloc of voters in California.
New data released by the secretary of state on Friday shows voters with no party preference represent 25.5 percent of registered voters while Republicans make up 25.1 percent. Democrats remain the largest group at more than 44 percent.
The new numbers come as Republicans are scrambling to ensure they have a candidate advance to the November general election in the governor's race. In California, the top two vote-getters in each race advance, regardless of party. Not having a candidate in the highest profile race could depress Republican turnout and affect down-ballot races.
It's already unlikely a Republican will make the top two in the state's U.S. Senate race.
More than 19 million Californians are registered to vote ahead of the state's Tuesday primary. That's more than three-quarters of the eligible voter population.
"I'm proud to see the highest percentage of eligible Californians registered and ready to vote in a gubernatorial primary in decades," Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement. He called the rise in no-party-preference voters a "significant milestone in the ever changing California electorate."
Padilla, a Democrat, highlighted the state's new automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles as part of the reason for what he characterized as a high registration rate. He also pointed to the state's new mobile friendly voter registration website and updated paper registration forms.