California tops record with more than 20M registered voters

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- More than 79 percent of California's eligible voters -- or over 20 million people -- are registered to vote, the highest percentage since 1996, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said Monday.

The new numbers come a year before California hosts its presidential primaries in March 2020 as part of Super Tuesday, when a handful of other states also vote. California, which typically hosts its primary in June, hasn't had a March primary since 2008. 

State lawmakers argued that moving up the primaries would give California residents more say in who wins each party's presidential nomination. The high voter registration numbers suggest voters are gearing up for the election, Padilla said. 

"With an earlier primary in 2020, California voters will have more influence in the presidential nominating contests for all parties," he said. 

This is the first time California's voter registration has topped 20 million people.

Republicans still rank last in total voter registration behind Democrats and independents. The state has 8.6 million Democrats, 5.6 million independents and 4.7 million Republicans. 

The GOP lost seven U.S. House seats in the November 2018 elections and holds less than a quarter of all state legislative seats.