BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — This year’s primary election is less than six months out, and the Central Valley has some of the most competitive races in the state.
When it comes to the often polarizing midterms, there is one issue on which both political parties seem to agree: the importance of getting voters to the polls, or nowadays, the mailbox. But Republican political analyst Cathy Abernathy said the success of that, can vary greatly by district.
“There’s always the issue, number one, of voter interest,” Abernathy said. “Number two, these districts have the same number of people but that doesn’t mean they have the same number of voters.”
17 News analyzed recent election data in the Central Valley from California’s Secretary of State, finding an interesting trend — voters in red districts filled out ballots at a notably higher rate than those within blue-leaning lines
David Valadao’s 21st congressional district, for instance, leans blue, with registered Democrats holding about a 16 percentage point edge over registered Republicans. In 2018 the number of voters who turned in ballots in his district was 92,000 fewer than in Kevin McCarthy’s deep-red 23rd district. In 2020, it was 135,000 fewer.
“If you look at district 21, there a lot more working class folks, where district 23, a lot would say, there’s more professional class folks living there,” Democratic political analyst Neel Sannappa said.
Sannappa said those in the working class often have inflexible jobs and lower incomes, things he says can hinder one’s ability to turn in a ballot.
But the imbalance in turnout wasn’t unique to congress.
In 2018 Melissa Hurtado’s blue-dominant state senate district had nearly 120,000 fewer voters turn in ballots than Shannon Grove’s Republican senate district.
Democratic candidates such as Hurtado and Salas still won in these blue areas, therefore the data doesn’t necessarily indicate Democrats in these blue districts are voting less then Republicans in these blue districts. What it does indicate, however, is that voters overall in districts where Democrats out-register Republicans are voting in smaller numbers, something Sannappa said the Central Valley’s Democratic party is working on.
“It’s really about education,” he said. “I think we need more resources to reach out to folks and make sure that they do vote and they know when and how to vote and that we help them successfully vote.”