The newest addition to the Berkeley political scene, the non-partisan, non-profit Bay Area Center for Voting Research, warns that the Democratic Party is within a hair’s breadth of losing its majority hold on Bay Area voters.
“Both major parties seem to take the Bay Area for granted,” said Jason Alderman, a Berkeley resident co-founder of the group.
“The Democrats seem to take the vote here for granted, while the Republicans look at it as a bastion of left-wing kooks. But the truth is far more complex,” Alderman said.
According to the center’s just-released study “Democrats in the Bay Area,” the party now accounts for 50.1 percent of the 3.3 million voters in the nine Bay Area counties—and while they still outnumber Republicans more than two-to-one, both parties are losing their hold on voters.
The biggest gains were made by voters who declined to state a partisan preference.
While Democrats accounted for 1,741,389 million voters in 1999 and Republicans totaled 887,709, by this year their numbers have declined to 1,656,707 and 813,692 respectively. “Declined to state” voters rose in the same period from 497,414 to 661,512.
While Green Party registrations increased from 38,508 to 58,597 in the same period, other third party registrations fell from 140,041 to 113,015.
Alameda County remained the firmest Democratic stronghold, though the party’s 55.2 percent majority was still a full three percentage points lower than in 1999.
Republicans were strongest in Napa County, making up 33.5 percent of registrations, down from 35.6 percent five years earlier.
Statewide, Democratic registrations had fallen from 46.7 percent to 43.2 percent, while Republicans had scored a modest increase, for 35.3 percent to 35.5 percent. But the big winners statewide were those who refused to name a partisan preference, rising from 12.9 percent to 16.4 percent.
“We want to see the Bay Area get the respect and consideration it deserves,” Alderman said. “The information we provide will be useful to voters, to the parties and to policy-makers.”
Alderman and partner Phil Reiff, a San Franciscan, are already preparing other reports for release in the near future, including a city-by-city look at changing registrations.
“We don’t accept any money for this from parties, causes or foundations,” Alderman said. “We’re doing it out of our own pockets.”
If the trends outlined in their report continue, Alderman said, “by 2005 the Democratic party will lose its position as the majority political party in the Bay Area.”
Added Reiff, “If Democrats cannot hold a majority of voters in America’s most liberal enclave, then they have some serious soul-searching to do.”
A copy of the full report is available online at www.votingresearch.org/reports.html.