Empirical Evidence Registration Efforts Are Working
by Chris Bowers, Sat Sep 25, 2004 at 01:02:48 PM EDT
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.
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!