Tulare County leads state in newly registered voters

John Lindt

Valley voter registration climbs between 2016 and 2020 with Tulare County leading the way, Democrats make some gains

CALIFORNIA – The get out the vote campaign for this year’s election has reached massive proportions for the 2020 election.

The California Secretary of State recently announced that as of Sept. 4, 84.68% of eligible Californians are now registered to vote. Compared to the same time in 2016—60 days before the General Election—almost 3 million more voters were registered to vote statewide. The percent of those eligible to vote is the highest on record. The numbers for Valley counties are up nicely as well.

The greatest increase in California is in Tulare County where new registration jumped 33% compared to the 2016 report, adding over 47 thousand new voters. Between 2016 and 2020 Kings County jumped from just 60% of those eligible to 70%, also the highest ever.

Voters had until Oct. 19 to register. Voting began in California on Oct. 5, and this year Secretary of State Alex Padilla urged “more Californians to vote early.”

Valley counties all saw a jump in new voters with Fresno County rising to 79% of those eligible compared to 70% in 2012 and 72% in 2016. In Kern County in 2012 just 65% of eligible voters were registered and 68% in 2016, but now the number has climbed to 78%.

All four Valley counties saw a high percentage of young new voters from ages 17 to 25 years old. All higher than the state average. In Tulare County the number was up to 17% of all voters compared to a 13% average statewide. Kings was 14.5%.

What does this all mean for the ongoing battle between Democrats and Republicans in each battleground? Statewide, Democrats now make up 46.4% of voters compared to 45.2% in 2016. GOP voters dropped from 26.8 % in 2016 to 24.2% in 2020. No Party affiliation category climbed slightly over the latest 4-year period.

Kings County has been a GOP stronghold

You might be surprised that in 1992 Kings County Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 18,739 to 13,494. By 2016 there were 17,000 Democrats to nearly 22,000 GOP and about 8,000 registered No Party.

In Kings as of September 2020 there are over 19,000 Democrats and nearly 23,000 GOP suggesting a gain for Democrats in the past four years. No Party jumped to 11,661 showing the largest gain of all.

In recent years Kings County has been a Republican stronghold with one of the highest percentages of GOP voters—45% as of 2016. Democrats and the GOP switched places in this horse race around 2000.

Now the trend appears to be moving away from the GOP with Democrats and No Party adding up to 54% compared to 40% Republicans in the latest report.

Democrats gain in Fresno County

A much larger gain for Democrats has been seen recently in Fresno County. In 2012 there were 157,000 Democrats and 154,000 Republicans—almost even. In September 2020 the numbers are 190,500 Democrats and 157,600 Republicans. Over the past four years Democrats gained over 33,000 registered voters while the GOP registration gained just over 3,000—a 10-fold difference.

In Kern County in 2012 Democrats had 113,00 registered voters to 131,000 GOP members. By 2016 there were 124,000 Democrats compared to 132,000 GOP. In 2020 there are over 143,000 Democrats and over 152,000 Republicans.

Since 2012 Democrats have gained over 30,000 registered voters while the GOP gained 21,000. No Party in Kern now makes up over 20% of the electorate compared to 18% in 2012.

Registration jumps in Tulare County

Lastly, in Tulare County more voters have signed up from those eligible increasing from 55% in 2016 to 71% now. In 2016 Democrats numbered 47,000 to 62,000 GOP. In 2020 Democrats are nearly 63,000 to 73,000 GOP—decreasing the spread between the two parties from 15,000 to 10,000. No Party Preference numbers have climbed from over 27,000 to over 41,000 in Tulare County.

If you are interested in Visalia, Democrats have gained there as well. Since 2016 Democrats have added about 6,000 and the GOP 5,000. The total now according to an Oct. 9 report—Visalia has about 22,000 Democrats and 29,000 Republicans.

Time to vote

Voters can vote by mail and ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3. If you deposit your ballot in a drop box—Kings County has 13 locations and Tulare County 12—it must be deposited by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2020. But knowing where to officially drop off your vote-by-mail ballot can be a struggle. Lately, four county level GOP organizers in Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange and Sacramento Counties have placed their own ballot boxes around high foot-traffic areas.

In Fresno County, Republican organizers placed ballot boxes designed with the word “official” on them at stores and gas stations. California Democrats immediately pounced on the Republican strategy calling it illegal. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent a cease and desist letter to several county level GOP Chairmen.

“Misleading voters is wrong, regardless of who is doing it,” Padilla said. “Political parties and campaigns can engage in get out the vote efforts, but they cannot violate state law. The unofficial, unauthorized drop boxes in question violate state law and jeopardize the security of voters’ ballots. State and local elections officials have worked tirelessly to provide voters multiple safe, secure options to return their vote-by-mail ballots. These unauthorized drop boxes are a disservice to elections administrators and a disservice to voters who deserve to cast their ballots with clarity and confidence.”

In the following days the National Republic Congressional Conference issued statements defending the ballot boxes as above-board ballot harvesting. NRCC Deputy Chair Ken Calvert said, “Ballot harvesting is legal in the state of California, Democrats legalized it, and it is clear with these ballot boxes Republicans are following the laws Democrats put in place. In the face of voter suppression attempts by California Democrats, Republicans have and will continue to be steadfast in defending Californians’ voting rights.”

On Friday, Oct. 16 Padilla said that the California Republican Party has agreed to not use the, “unstaffed, unsecured, ballot drop boxes that are misleadingly labeled to look official.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a statement and said that California GOP conceded, “they broke the law in installing a targeted illegal ballot box strategy.”

“Republicans in California have conceded that their own strategy ran afoul of the law and have backed down,” the statement said.

“Californians deserve to have safe and secure elections that are fair and free from partisan malfeasance. That is why we are pleased to know that Californians’ access to the ballot will not be undermined by the CA GOP’s recent efforts to install illegal and unofficial ballot boxes that deceive voters and interfere with the security and safety of our election. Efforts to provide full and proper access to the ballot and Californians’ voting rights must be protected,” DCCC executive director, Lucinda Guinn, said.

If you cannot return your vote-by-mail ballot, a designee can in fact return it for you. Election offices have designed the front of ballot envelopes to authorize a person to return a voter’s ballot as long as they sign their name on the line provided. Tulare County voters can also return their ballots to a truly official ballot box provided by the Tulare County Elections Office, mail it back in through the United States Postal Service or bring their ballot to their polling place on Oct. 31 through Nov. 3 to fill out their ballot there.

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