Election 2010: Truckee most independent among Nevada County registered voters | SierraSun.com

Election 2010: Truckee most independent among Nevada County registered voters

Dave Moller
Sun News Service

NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. and#8212; Republicans still hold a plurality in Nevada County, but their grip is loosening: The number of people registered in a third party or as independent voters has more than doubled here in the past 30 years.

But Democrats aren’t doing any better: Both parties have seen their proportion of registered voters slip from 1980 to 2010, according to voter registration numbers from the Secretary of State and the Nevada County Elections Office.

And though the county has a reputation for conservatism and#8212; due in part to its older population and#8212; it has powerful pockets of liberals in the city centers and on the San Juan Ridge.

Three decades ago, 9 percent of voters registered as declining to state a party affiliation, with 3 percent in third parties for an overall independent vote of 12 percent.

That number crept to 10 percent declining to state in 1990, with 3 percent in other parties, for an independent voter base of 13 percent.

But by the year 2000, that number had jumped to 21 percent of Nevada County’s electorate, with 14 percent registered as decline to state and 7 percent in other parties.

Today, those figures have climbed to 26 percent of the county’s 61,461 registered voters, with 20 percent and#8212; one voter in five and#8212; declining to state and 6 percent in alternative parties.

and#8220;People are fed up with the system. People don’t have a choice,and#8221; said Jim Ring, an active member of the American Independent Party in Nevada County. and#8220;It’s not far off from what George Wallace said in 1968: and#8216;There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicans and Democrats.’and#8221;

Republicans have 40 percent of the registered voters here and#8212; likely a reflection of the county’s older population, party members said.

Democrats are at 34 percent and#8212; a 1 percent increase over 2000, after some fluctuation in previous decades.

But Republicans have slipped 6 points since the 46 percent plurality the party enjoyed here in 2000.

and#8220;It’s a natural reaction to the spending the Bush administration did,and#8221; said Nevada County Republican Central Committee member and former chairman Tony Gilchrease. and#8220;A lot of people said, and#8216;The hell with this.’and#8221;

He cited the rise of the Tea Party movement as a vivid recent example of voters shifting in reaction to prevailing policy.

and#8220;I have a lot a of friends who said, and#8216;I’m going independent,’ and they’re Tea Party people, baby, and for the most part, they are decline to state,and#8221; Gilchrease said.

Nevada County Democratic Central Committee member Sharon Miller Rose sees the political landscape changing as well.

and#8220;There’s a whole new wave of people looking for answers, and they feel let down by both parties,and#8221; Miller Rose said.

Current Nevada County Republican Central Committee Chairman Bill Neuharth agrees.

and#8220;I think it’s dissatisfaction with how things are in general and the low poll numbers Congress is getting reflect that, and that’s everyone, not just one party,and#8221; Neuharth said.

and#8220;What’s going on is these constant budget deficits,and#8221; he said. and#8220;People are just sick of wondering where their money is going, and that backlashes on both parties.and#8221;

Part of the movement also stems from the growing polarization of politics, said Joan Field of the Democratic Central Committee.

and#8220;The Republicans have gone so far right that moderate Republicans have problems with them now,and#8221; Field said. and#8220;The Democratic Party moderates aren’t involved like they used to be.

and#8220;I think most Americans see themselves as centrist.and#8221;

Nevada County’s most independent voters live in the 5th district, stretching from just east of Nevada City to Truckee and the Nevada state line.

Almost one in three voters in the district and#8212; or 34 percent of 10,417 people registered and#8212; are decline to state or third party.

To break that down: 8 percent are in third parties, and 26 percent are decline to state, the highest in both categories for any of the county’s five supervisorial districts.

The district also has 38 percent Democrats, compared to 28 percent Republicans and#8212; the reverse of other county districts.

Some highlights: A typical precinct is the Sagehen, where voters cast ballots at the Northwoods Clubhouse. Among them, 39 percent are Democrats, 31 percent are Republicans, 4 percent are third party and#8212; and 26 percent decline to state.

In the Truckee Precinct, where ballots are cast at the Truckee-Donner Public Utilities District building, 41 percent are Democrat, 27 percent are Republican, 7 percent are third party and 25 percent decline to state.

Republicans also have the majority in the district covering Penn Valley and the San Juan Ridge. Of the district’s 13,110 voters, 43 percent are registered Republicans, 31 percent Democrats, 7 percent other parties and 19 percent decline to state.

But the district’s two population centers vary widely in political character.

At the Bugler Precinct in Lake Wildwood, where voters cast at the Marina Recreation Room, 54 percent are Republican, 30 percent Democrats, 3 percent third party and 13 percent decline to state.

Those numbers get turned upside down at the North San Juan Precinct, where voters cast ballots at the Senior Citizens Center in town. The eclectic precinct has 42 percent Democrats, 20 percent Republicans, 14 percent third party and 24 percent decline to state.

That means 38 percent of the precinct’s voters are independent of the major parties and#8212; one of the highest proportions of independent voters in Nevada County.

Republicans barely edge out Democrats in the district that covers the Grass Valley area.

GOP members make up 38 percent of the 11,112 voters in the district, with Democrats close at 36 percent. The district has 7 percent third party registrants and 19 percent decline to state, which lines up closely with the county overall.

Voters at the Josiah Royce Precinct, who cast ballots at the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building, show much more liberal tendencies. Of them, 40 percent are registered Democrats, 30 percent Republican, 6 percent third party members and 24 percent decline to state.

But in the affluent neighborhoods around Nevada Union High School, which includes Morgan Ranch and its many retirees, numbers are more conservative. Voters in the Grass Valley Precinct cast ballots at Grace Lutheran Church. Of those voters, 42 percent are Republicans, 37 percent Democrats, 5 percent from other parties and 16 percent decline to state.

Supervisor District 2, which encompasses Alta Sierra and Lake of the Pines in southern Nevada County, is the most Republican of the five districts. Of the district’s 13,152 voters, 51 percent are registered with the GOP, while 30 percent are Democrats.

Independent voters have the lowest numbers of the five districts, with 3 percent in third parties and 16 percent declining to state, for 19 percent independent registration overall.

Some highlights: The Forty Niner Precinct in Lake of the Pines is the most Republican of the most Republican. Voters cast ballots at the gated community’s Yacht Lounge: 59 percent are Republican, 23 percent Democrats, 2 percent third party and 16 percent decline to state.

That conservative trend is almost as pronounced at Alta Sierra’s General Grant Precinct which is set up for voters at the Alta Sierra Country Club. In that precinct, 52 percent are Republican, 29 percent Democrats, 4 percent in third parties and 15 percent decline to state.

The Nevada City area district, with 13,870 voters, reveals a dead heat for registrants in the two major parties. Both parties have 37 percent of the electorate, with 5,214 in the GOP and 5,155 Democrats.

The district aligns with the county overall, with 7 percent in third parties and 19 percent decline to state.

But precincts within the district differ widely.

At the Little Turk Precinct, where voters cast ballots at Seaman Lodge in Pioneer Park, 40 percent are Republican, with 37 percent Democrats, 5 percent third party members and 18 percent decline to state.

In the vastly more liberal Nevada City Precinct downtown, voters cast ballots at the Veterans Building. Of those voters, 48 percent are Democrats, 22 percent Republican, 9 percent third party and 21 percent decline to state and#8212; making it among the most Democratic precincts in the county.