In the last two months, the number of registered voters in Santa Barbara County jumped by about 16,000, bringing the total to 222,820, the highest in county history. Voter forms continue to trickle in, but as of press time, Democrats have a 15 percent edge over Republicans, 9 percent higher than in 2004.
Since 2012, the county’s Democrats increased by nearly 11,000, whereas Republicans dropped by 1,500. Some of that Republican drop-off was absorbed in the number of decline-to-state voters, which has significantly increased across the nation. In fact, there are 13,500 more this year than there were in 2008.
Notable this year is that more state Democratic Party resources are being poured into North County, in part to register Latinos, most of whom are unlikely to support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, given his immigration proposals. For the first time in recent memory, said Cory Bantilan, chief staffer to 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, the race for the 35th Assembly District, reliably Republican in the past, is a closely contested one between Democrat Dawn Ortiz-Legg and Republican Jordan Cunningham. The district spans Santa Maria, Lompoc, Guadalupe, and all of San Luis Obispo County. Katcho Achadjian has represented it since 2010, but statewide Democratic Party efforts could scoop this district to help make the Assembly two-thirds blue.
In South County, it is well established that the Isla Vista area has been the county’s political epicenter since 18-year-olds got the right to vote in 1971. This summer, Democratic Party activists set out to register 13,000 new Isla Vista voters. But they only signed up about 9,000, excluding online voter registration and CalPIRG efforts. Because students living in Isla Vista frequently move apartments, they must often re-register to vote. Darcel Elliott, who is leading the charge for the Democrats, said they confirmed an additional 945 people were already registered to vote because they did not move. She observed students were more likely to register Democrat in the June primary so they could vote for Bernie Sanders, who beat Hillary Clinton 8-1 in Isla Vista.