Empirical Evidence Registration Efforts Are Working

Great news: A sweeping voter registration campaign in heavily Democratic areas has added tens of thousands of new voters to the rolls in the swing states of Ohio and Florida, a surge that has far exceeded the efforts of Republicans in both states, a review of registration data shows.

The analysis by The New York Times of county-by-county data shows that in Democratic areas of Ohio - primarily low-income and minority neighborhoods - new registrations since January have risen 250 percent over the same period in 2000. In comparison, new registrations have increased just 25 percent in Republican areas. A similar pattern is apparent in Florida: in the strongest Democratic areas, the pace of new registration is 60 percent higher than in 2000, while it has risen just 12 percent in the heaviest Republican areas.

While comparable data could not be obtained for other swing states, similar registration drives have been mounted in them as well, and party officials on both sides say record numbers of new voters are being registered nationwide. This largely hidden but deadly earnest battle is widely believed by campaign professionals and political scientists to be potentially decisive in the presidential election.

Kick ass. I have been skeptical about the prospect of a wave of new voters coming to the aid of Democrats in this election cycle and making registered voter poll models look more accurate than likely voter poll models. However, this is very encouraging. Turning someone into a likely voter basically requires two steps. First, they need to be registered. Second, and this is just as important, they need to be partisans. In Presidential elections, self-identifying partisans who are registered to vote turnout to vote more than 80% of the time.
Clearly, this important second factor is not lost on Project Vote, America Votes, Acorn or America Coming Together:[A]n examination of county registration records shows that the groups have added thousands of new Democrats to the rolls and have far outnumbered new registrations in Republican areas. In a 300-square-block area east of the courthouse in downtown Columbus that voted nine to one against Mr. Bush in 2000, for instance, 3,000 new voters have registered this year. That is three times as many as in each of the last two presidential election years. The number of registered voters in the area is up 18 percent since January.

By comparison, in a prosperous area north of downtown with a similar number of voters who are overwhelmingly Republican, just 1,100 new voters have been added this year, increasing registration rolls by 7 percent.

These numbers are similar across Ohio. The Times examined registration from Jan. 1 to July 31 in a sample of counties that included seven of the state's nine largest, along with some smaller rural and suburban counties. Voters do not give a party affiliation when they register in Ohio, but The Times looked at the voting history of ZIP codes to gauge the political inclinations of the new voters.

In rock-ribbed Republican areas - 103 ZIP codes, many of them rural and suburban areas, that voted by two to one or better for George W. Bush in 2000 - 35,000 new voters have registered, a substantial increase over the 28,000 that registered in those areas in the first seven months of 2000. The Ohio Republican party said it was pleased with the results.(...)

But in heavily Democratic areas - 60 ZIP codes mostly in the core of big cities like Cleveland, Dayton, Columbus and Youngstown that voted two to one or better against Mr. Bush - new registrations have more than tripled over 2000, to 63,000 from 17,000.

In Florida, where The Times was able to analyze data from 60 of the state's 67 counties, new registrations this year also are running far ahead of the 2000 pace, with Republican areas trailing Democratic ones. In the 150 ZIP codes that voted most heavily for Mr. Bush, 96,000 new voters have registered this year, up from 86,000 in 2000, an increase of about 12 percent.

But in the heaviest of Democratic areas, 110 ZIP codes that gave two-thirds or more of their votes to Al Gore, new registrations have increased to 125, 000 from 77,000, a jump of more than 60 percent.

In Duval County, where a confusing ballot design in 2000 helped disqualify thousands of ballots in black precincts, new registrations by black voters are up 150 percent over the pace of 2000.

Democratic leaning groups are not just registering any new voter they find. Clearly, they are targeting partisan Democratic areas because they know that registering partisans is the best way for a voter registration drive to make a difference. These numbers mirror what is taking place in parts of North Carolina. Considering this, it is entirely possible that Democratic success in registering new partisans in both Ohio and Florida is being replicated nationwide.

These efforts will pay off not just in 2004, but further down the road. Jesse Jackson's innovative Presidential campaign, which in truth was a continuous effort running from 1983 all the way until the 1988 convention, focused significantly on massive voter registration drives. These drives not only led to surprising success for Jackson in 1984, and especially 1988 Democratic primaries, but also to the continuing survival of Democrats in many Southern states in more recent election cycles. For instance, it is hard to imagine that Mary Landrieu and John Edwards would be in office today had it not been for what Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition accomplished.

The coming resurgence of the Democratic Party in Ohio, Florida and other swing states will significantly be a result of the efforts of groups such as ACT and Acorn during this election cycle. Bravo!

Tags: General 2008 (all tags)



Hard data - great news
I'm told, by someone who should know, that the number of new registrations in my Democratic-oriented part of Illinois is also way up this year, although I don't have the kind of supporting data that you've found for OH and FL.
by EvanstonDem 2004-09-25 01:11PM | 0 recs
Also in PA
I was in York Pennsylvania today working through ACT to register voters. My 2 person team, working in a precinct that went for Gore with between 75 and 100% of the vote, registered 14 new voters in 3-4 hours of work. There were lots of 2 person teams. Tomorrow there will be at a minimum 50 2 person teams. ACT's goal for new voter registration in York City is 2004. They'll make it. Easily.

I'd encourage everyone who can to get out there and help. It really makes a difference, and it feels really good too.

by demomatt 2004-09-25 02:02PM | 0 recs
Empirical Evidence
Actually, more than 80% of ALL registered voters (partisan or not) show up. In 2000 it was about 85%. The difference between the 55% number the media usually quotes as "turnout" and this 85% number is two things: Non-citizens and other ineligible (felons and prisoners), which we can't do anything about; and eligible non-registrants. So this indeed is fabulous news. However, one caveat: Those 15% or so registered voters who typically fail to vote are usually new voters. That is to say, it's one thing to register them, it's another to turn them out. Don't relax!!!
by AS 2004-09-25 02:40PM | 0 recs
According to Dave Leip
67.1% of registered voters turned out in 2000. I'm not sure where your number comes from.
by Chris Bowers 2004-09-25 02:54PM | 0 recs
Re: According to Dave Leip
Great site!  Thanks for giving the link.
by PonyFan 2004-09-25 05:23PM | 0 recs
I like thier mock election.  They have Bush placing FOURTH, behind Kerry, Badnarik, and Peroutka.


by Geotpf 2004-09-25 06:04PM | 0 recs
I just volunteered to be a precinct leader for Moveonpac's "No voter left behind" in West Philly.  We will go door to door and win this election.
by Panhu 2004-09-25 02:44PM | 0 recs
Turning registered voters into actual voter doesn't require that they become partisans, though that is certainly a good thing.  It may be that they have friends or family members who are partisans.  Let's make sure that each of us are the partisan leader for our own little circles.
by James Earl 2004-09-25 08:06PM | 0 recs


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