Secretary of State Debra Bowen today released the report on voter registration that is required 60 days before every election, and it reveals an interesting development in Ventura County: The steady rise in independent, or "decline to state" voters has at least momentarily taken a pause.
It has been reported both here and on the pages of The Star that Democrats in March surpassed Republicans on the voting rolls in Ventura County for the first time in 20 years. The new figures show that trend continuing; as of April 4, Democrats had increased their edge to 3,179 voters. They now outnumber Republicans 153,323 to 150,144.
Equally noteworthy, however, is what has happend since the last official statewide report, issued on Jan. 22. Since that time, the number of decline-to-state voters in the county has dropped by more than 500. It is a slight change -- less a half-percent of registered voters -- but it is notable because this is the one category of voters that has steadily and dramatically increased in every reporting period for more than a decade.
It could be a quirk, because statewide the number of decline-to-states continued to rise. But it's something to keep an eye on, because it could suggest that younger voters who in recent years have scorned political parties are gravitating toward the Democratic Party.
This development could be politically meaningful in the 19th Senate District, where a contested partisan race is shaping up for the fall. In that district since January, Democratic registration inched up by more than half a percent, Republican registration dropped by about a quarter percent and decline-to-state registration dipped by about a quarter percent.
The net result: The Republican voter registration advantage in that district is down to 2.3 percent. The last time there was an election in the 19th District, in 2004, the Republican edge was just under 5 percent. In other words, the advantage has been cut in half in less than four years.