Will surging registrations have a partisan effect this fall?


Here’s a story from the LA Times, “Voter registration trends appear to favor Democrats”. The story argues:

A look at the voter registration numbers in some battleground states suggests trends that appear to favor Obama.

Virginia, for example, has logged more than 300,000 new voters since the year began. The state does not record party affiliation, but it says that 41% of the new registrants are under the age of 25, and an additional 20% are between the ages of 25 and 34.

The influx of young voters, a core part of Obama’s voting coalition, is an encouraging sign for the Democratic nominee in a state that has not picked a Democrat for president in more than 40 years.

“This is exactly what we needed to do to change the electorate in Virginia in order to put Sen. Obama in a position where he could win the state,” said Steve Hildebrand, Obama’s deputy campaign manager.

In Nevada, another Republican state that Obama is trying to move into the Democratic column, Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 80,000, according to figures posted by the state in September, before the voter registration deadline last Saturday. Four years ago, Republicans held a registration edge of 4,431.

Democratic registration has ballooned in Pennsylvania, presenting a challenge to Republicans who hoped to swing the state to their column. Obama’s party now outnumbers Republicans by nearly 1.15 million registered voters. In the 2004 election, the margin was about 580,000; in 2000, it was 486,000.

Here’s a similar story from The Washington Post, “Registration Gains Favor Democrats.” And the argument there was very much the same:

In the past year, the rolls have expanded by about 4 million voters in a dozen key states — 11 Obama targets that were carried by George W. Bush in 2004 (Ohio, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico) plus Pennsylvania, the largest state carried by Sen. John F. Kerry that Sen. John McCain is targeting.

In Florida, Democratic registration gains this year are more than double those made by Republicans; in Colorado and Nevada the ratio is 4 to 1, and in North Carolina it is 6 to 1. Even in states with nonpartisan registration, the trend is clear — of the 310,000 new voters in Virginia, a disproportionate share live in Democratic strongholds.

The key will be seeing to what extent the Democratic party can keep these newly registered voters excited and engaged in the campaign, and insure that they either vote early or get out to vote on Election day. If they are successful, and if the Republicans are also successful in getting their newly registered voters out this fall, we might see levels of voter turnout unlike we have seen in recent presidential elections.

One other issue regarding the surge in voter registrations is how that might be affecting pre-election polling; if there is a late-campaign surge for one party or the other in the mobilization of newly registered voters, we could see election outcomes that are divergent from the polls. So hold onto your hats, it might be a wild ride!