SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ California voters have registered as independents in record numbers even though the Democratic and Republican parties will ignore their votes in the March 7 presidential primaries, new state figures show.

``Decline to state,'' _ as independents are listed on election rolls _ has risen to 2.1 million voters from 1.6 million in 1996, when state election law was changed to allow them vote in the primary, the Secretary of State's Office said.

More significantly, the number of independents rose by 77,145 in the month before the Feb. 7 registration deadline, while the number of registered Republicans rose by 21,578 and Democrats declined by 91,516.

The new totals are 6.7 million Democrats, 5.1 million Republicans, 2.1 million independents and 639,000 scattered among five minor parties. The state now has 14.6 million registered voters.

Records do not indicate how many changed their registration and how many are new voters.

Independent and crossover votes will count in the overall vote next Tuesday, but state law lets Democrats and Republicans count only ballots cast by voters in their respective parties when awarding delegates to the national conventions.

Although the state's number of eligible voters has risen by 1.8 million, to 21.2 million, since the 1996 presidential primary, the new total of registered voters is up only 103,000.

Polls for the California contest show Vice President Al Gore leading Bill Bradley in the Democratic race and Gov. George W. Bush ahead of McCain in the Republican race.