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Republicans Gaining by Subtraction

The recent articles discussing Republican voter registration gains are misleading.

Several stories have been written like the Steve Peoples and Aaron Kessler piece for the Associated Press that suggests Republicans have gained over 1 million more registered voters than Democrats nationwide during the last year.

The authors site records from 43 states to arrive at their conclusion. In actuality, only 31 states require voters to register by political party. Therefore, most of the calculations are completed through mathematical extrapolation. Thus, they are estimates as opposed to actual individual records.

The live registration numbers when comparing the current information in the party registration states to their figures from the November 2020 election tell us that both major parties have lost registrants during this two-year period.

Democrats have lost far more than Republicans, hence the sense of the AP article that the GOP is gaining in the registration battle is basically true, but in a different manner. The party, or lack of, designation that has gained registrants during the period between the two most recent major elections is the Unaffiliated, or Independent, or Other, category, depending upon state classification jargon.

While the drop-off in party registration may be significant, and certainly many more Democrats than Republicans are leaving their party, it appears, however, that most of them are headed to the Unaffiliated column as opposed to the Republican.

Another reason for the decline in party registration may be linked to the individual state’s purge regulations and not entirely because people may be changing their registration status. Most states remove voters from the roles who haven’t voted in a defined number of elections, and they merge the registration file with those who have passed away during the stated time interval.

To illustrate the actual registration numbers in key states, we isolate the most competitive Senate races where the state registers voters by political party. A total of seven states fit both criteria. They are: Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

The following chart compares the current registration figures to those at the time of the 2020 election. In each case, the statistical information is from the official state election governing authority.

State Dem Change GOP Change Ind Change
Arizona -44,323 -22,997 77,148
Florida -343,162 -33,251 112,575
Iowa -107,261 -62,469 81,140
Nevada -85,717 -57,896 77,946
New Hampshire -72,608 -68,049 -107,773
North Carolina -42,941 104,595 219,752
Pennsylvania -228,452 -2,781 -85,309
TOTALS -924,464 -149,848 375,479
  down 6.1% down 1.1% up 3.7%

 

As you can see, just in these critical states, Republicans have closed the registration gap by almost 775,000 individuals, which is clearly a significant number. This, even though both major parties have less raw number registrants than they did at the time of the 2020 election.

Florida and Pennsylvania continue to be particular points of interest. As previously reported, 2022 primary turnout in the latter state rose 92% over the 2018 midterm, and this year’s participation figure was actually higher than the 2020 presidential primary turnout, something that virtually never happens. We shall see if the primary turnout patterns substantially increase in Florida when the state’s primary is conducted on August 23rd.

For the first time in the modern political era, however, the number of Florida registered Republicans now exceeds that of the Democrats. In Pennsylvania, the Democratic advantage over the Republicans is down to just over 550,000. In the 2018 midterm, for example, the gap between the Democrats and Republicans was almost 850,000 individuals.

While the GOP’s momentum in voter registration is clearly not because throngs of people are running to join their party, the backdoor trends are still to their significant benefit. Should this pattern continue when registrations begin to increase as the election gets closer, the 2022 voting trends will certainly be affected.


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