Monday, September 27, 2004

Democratic Registration Skyrockets in Ohio and Florida

This is interesting.

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.

“We know it’s going on, and it’s a very encouraging sign,” said Steve Elmendorf, deputy campaign manager for Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee. The new voters, Mr. Elmendorf said, “could very much be the difference.”

A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, Christine Iverson, declined to comment on The Times’s findings and said she did not believe Republicans were lagging in the registration battle. “We’re very confident that we have a ground game that’s as good as the Democrats’, and better,” she said.

The precise impact of the swell in registration is difficult to predict, as there is no reliable gauge of how many of these new voters will actually vote. Some experts, though, say that the spike has not been accurately captured by political polls and could confound prognostications in closely contested states.

What is clear is that each side has deployed huge numbers of workers and devoted millions of dollars to the effort. Much of it is being directed by civil rights and community groups, as well as soft-money organizations allied with the Democrats. One such Democratic umbrella group, America Votes, says its constituents – labor unions, trial lawyers, environmental groups, community organizations – will spend $300 million on registration and turnout in swing states, a sum that dwarfs the $150 million in public financing the two candidates together will receive for the entire fall campaign.

I’m hearing about this from my sources in Ohio; people who never before expressed an interest in an election are showing up at rallys, giving money to new Democratic candidates (i.e. Robin Weirauch), and volunteering to get out the vote. Whether or not this will materialize in votes in five weeks is still The Big Question, but it’s a good sign.