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As Election Day draws near, party registration in Kern County appears to be nearly the same as it was in the presidential election four years ago; however, the Democratic Party’s share of voters fell for the first time in two decades.

That’s in line with an overall decline in the past two decades in the two major parties’ share of local voters.

Voters affiliated with the Democratic Party fell to 34 percent this year from 36 percent four years ago. Prior to this year, Democrats comprised 36 percent of voters in Kern in every presidential election since 2000.

Republicans make up the same 37 percent of total voters this year as in 2016 and those registered No Party Preference make up 22 percent, which also remained stable from four years ago.

If there is anything to be said of this year’s numbers “it’s good news for Republicans because the Democratic registration slipped,” said longtime local political observer Mark Salvaggio.

Democratic registration would have been expected to increase, since the Latino population in Kern County has been increasing and now stands at 54 percent, Salvaggio said. Latinos typically register as Democrats, he said.

An increase in No Party Preference registrations is likely drawing voters away from both major political parties, Salvaggio said.

“It is clear that No Party Preference has increased in recent years. The trend statewide is the same,” Salvaggio said. “Many people don’t want to be identified with a political party and I sympathize with that because I changed my party.”

Salvaggio, a former Bakersfield City Council member, first registered to vote as a Republican, then switched to the Democratic party in the early 1980s and in 1990 changed his affiliation to No Party Preference.

Indeed, the two major political parties have been losing ground among voters countywide since at least 2000.

When President Barack Obama ran for a second term in 2012, Republican Party registration fell to 41 percent from 45 percent in 2008 and no party preference registrations increased to 18 percent from 15 percent in 2008, when Obama was first elected.