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The number of Californians registered to vote has reached a new high, with 18.2 million residents eligible to participate in Tuesday's election.

That represents nearly 77 percent of the state's eligible voting population, according to figures released today by Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

While registrations submitted through the state's new online system generated buzz this fall, the state saw fewer voters added to the rolls in the final weeks ahead of the Oct. 22 registration deadline than in the same period in 2008.

"Registering to vote is easier now than it was four years ago, yet fewer people actually registered in this final 45-day window than did in 2008," Bowen said in a statement. "This makes it clear that it's not just a question of making voter registration easier; it's really about what inspires people to care about their democracy and be part of the decision-making process."

Democrats continue to hold a double-digit lead in registration over other parties in the state, with the party's share of the electorate rising slightly since September to 43.7 percent. The percentages of Republicans and voters who decline to identify a party preference both dropped by less than a percentage point during the same period. Republican registration dipped below 30 percent. About a fifth of voters did not pick a party.


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