Photo by JP Crumrine
Photo by JP Crumrine

Presidential elections like the one held Tuesday bring to light the changing political divisions that shape the electorate. While the state of California is perennially and reliably “blue,” with Democrats outnumbering Republicans by two to one, Riverside County has been majority Republican at least since the state’s online registration records went online in 1999.

That changed in August, when voter registration data showed Democrats finally edging Republicans for the first time in recent memory, and likely more. But while collective voter registration data for all county unincorporated areas, which includes the San Jacinto Mountains, show them to be an outlier Republican stronghold by 65,506 to 50,498 Democrats, localized data for Idyllwild and the surrounding communities tells a different story altogether.

Data obtained from the county Registrar of Voters Office on Sept. 7, show 2,702 voters registered across the five precincts on the Hill; of these, 1,033 (38.2 percent) are registered Republican and 1,014 (37.5 percent) registered Democratic, a gap of just 19 voters.

Of the remainder, 491 voters listed no party preference, with 24 and 25 voters registered Green and Libertarian, respectively. The only other party with a presidential ticket on the California ballot, Peace and Freedom, claims just six registered voters on the Hill.

Eighty-six voters are registered with the American Independent party, which has endorsed the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

The margin of registered Democrats to registered Republicans widens significantly from the Hill average in three of five precincts. Idyllwild, with three times more voters than the second-largest precinct, leans firmly Democratic, with 673 (41 percent) registered voters to 558 (34 percent) Republicans. Mountain Center (33 R, 21 D) and Garner Valley (177 R, 61 D) tilt sharply Republican.

The two remaining precincts more directly reflect the tight numbers between the two major parties on the Hill: Pine Cove (196 R, 193 D) with a Republican advantage of three voters, and San Bernardino National Forest (69 R, 67 D), just two.

The proportion of voters registering No Party Preference holds steady around the Hill average of 19 percent in all precincts except Garner Valley, where only 11 percent of voters decline to identify with any political party.

While Democrats may not have taken over the Hill just yet, they have made significant progress in recent years. Democrats make up 259 (43.2 percent) of the 599 new voters registered since the last presidential election in 2012, mostly in Idyllwild, Pine Cove and San Bernardino National Forest, compared with 172 (28 percent) Republicans dominating new registrations in Garner Valley and Mountain Center.

Voters under age 35 also lean disproportionately Democratic, with 117 (38 percent) registered voters to 86 (28 percent) registered Republicans. But this group represents just 10 percent of Idyllwild area voters, despite making up 25 percent of the state’s 17.9 million registered voters.

The Idyllwild and Pine Cove precincts provide in-person polling places on election day, although 1,035 (63.1 percent) of Idyllwild and 372 (70 percent) of Pine Cove voters are registered as Permanent Absentee voters. Garner Valley, Mountain Center and San Bernardino National Forest are mail-only ballot precincts.