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Voter registration numbers show parties' decline

January 31, 2012 |  5:11 pm

The growth in “decline to state” voters in California continues to climb, while both the Democratic and Republican parties saw their voter rolls dip over the past year, new statewide voter registration figures show.

One in five California voters--21%--has declined to claim membership to any political party,  according to the secretary of state’s Jan. 3 Report of Registration. (http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ror/ror-pages/154day-presprim-12/)

Despite the slip, however, the Democrats maintained a substantial advantage over the GOP, accounting for 44% of the registered voters in California compared with 30% for Republicans. Both parties saw a drop of about half a percentage point over the last year.

 “It’s been this way for two decades," said Allan Hoffenblum, a former GOP strategist who analyzes election contests in his nonpartisan California Target Book. "The Republican Party’s greatest problem, as far as its ability to increase the number of Republican legislators, continues to be the weak registration numbers."

The Democratic Party increased its edge in voter registration in California’s newly drawn congressional districts, which could aid the party’s efforts of recapturing the House of Representatives in Washington. Democrats account for a majority of voters in 39 of California’s 53 congressional districts, compared to a majority in 33 a year ago. The state’s congressional delegation is represented by 34 Democrats and 19 Republicans.

Republicans continue to hold a slight edge in California’s counties, holding a majority of voters in 30 of the 58 counties, the voter registration report shows. That number has been on the decline, however, since 2003 when the GOP had a majority in 37 counties. Democrats now make up a thin majority of voters in San Diego County, where the GOP held a slight edge a year ago, the report shows.

Statewide, the number of independent, decline-to-state voters now stands at 21%, double the number that registered with no party preference in 1995.

There were 17 million Californians who had registered to vote as of Jan. 3, about 72% of those eligible to do so, the state report showed.

Hoffenblum said it will be difficult to predict how the new voter numbers will influence races for the state Senate and Assembly. Not only has redistricting scrambled the political playing field, but California also will be using its new “top-two” primary system that sends the two candidates with the most votes to the general election.

“We’re going to have more competitive races in November than we’ve had in two decades," Hoffenblum said.  “Voters have always said now is the time for change. They won’t find a better election cycle to make change."


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