Iowa Republicans make big voter registration gains

Competitive primaries helped Iowa Republicans make “significant” voter registration gains between June 1 and July 1 of this year, Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro announced at a press conference today. Voter registration totals as of June 1 (pdf file) were 710,017 Democrats, 607,567 Republicans and 772,725 no-party voters. As of July 1, registered Democrats were down to 699,972, Republicans were up to 644,838, and no-party voters were down to 749,441. A press release from the Secretary of State’s office noted that “these totals include both active and inactive voters.”

Iowa law allows voters to change their registration on the day of a primary or general election, and there were many more competitive races on the Republican side this year. It appears that approximately 10,000 Democrats and 23,000 independents became Republicans in order to vote in the GOP primary on June 8. Mauro remarked that Republicans gained in voter registration in 2002, when three men sought the nomination for governor and two sought the nomination for U.S. Senate. By the same token, the number of registered Democrats increased substantially in 2006, when Chet Culver was running against Mike Blouin and Ed Fallon while Jim Nussle was unopposed for governor on the GOP side. But Mauro “couldn’t deny that the momentum is on the GOP side.”

Not every party-switcher is a guaranteed Republican vote in November. Some Democrats may have voted for the perceived weaker Republican candidate for governor, and I’ve known independents who vote in whatever primary is competitive, no matter whom they plan to support in the general. Nevertheless, it’s not good for the Iowa Democratic Party’s voter registration advantage to shrink by such a large amount, particularly since it will be challenging to turn out many of 2008’s new voters, who were mobilized by Barack Obama’s campaign. Approximately 1.5 million Iowans voted in November 2008, but only about 1.05 million voted in November 2006. I will be surprised if turnout this November exceeds 1.1 million.

Click here for updated voter registration numbers by county and by Congressional, state house and state senate districts. After the jump I’ve posted links to pdf files showing voter registration changes following the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Iowa primaries.

Iowa Democrats’ ability to execute their early voter program will be critical again this year. Strong early voting has saved several Iowa House and Senate seats the last few cycles. But voter mobilization can only do so much if there is a large enthusiasm gap between the parties. I also hope that Culver’s campaign has a game plan for bringing the dissatisfied Democrats home in November.

UPDATE: John Deeth doesn’t think the registration gains are anything to brag about, because they grew out of a divisive, still-unresolved primary.

SECOND UPDATE: Bret Hayworth notes the registration numbers for active Iowa voters: 661,115 Democrats, 615,011 Republicans and 683,817 independents.  

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About the Author(s)


  • I switched

    I declared republican at the primary.  I wanted to vote for BVP as he was the kookiest repug running.  Down the line I just voted for the nutiest repug.  I no one was running I just wrote in a kooks name like Palin, Beck, Sheepdip.

    I won’t switch back until after the election.  When the reugs call me as a newly registered reug.  I will chew the hell out of whoever calls me to go and vote or attend a dinner or event.

    I like snakes better than republicans.  Atleast I can respect a snake.

    • even if we assume

      that almost all of the 10K Democratic switchers were like you, we can’t deny the Republicans have cut into our registration edge. It makes me nervous, because I don’t expect much activity from those 2008 new Obama voters.

      Now, if we can turn out even 25 percent of the 2008 new Obama voters, that could significantly affect various races.

      • A huge disadvantage of long campaigns

        I didn’t predict it at the time, but I think  the extremely long caucus/general campaigns of 07-08 have created a burn-out problem for volunteers/activists.  I worked my tail off for the Obama campaign from May of ’07 through the general in November ’08.  I loved every minute of it, but whereas I used to be a pretty reliable, low-impact campaign volunteer, good for a couple afternoons of canvassing/lit drops close to the big day, I’m burned out this year and am sitting out this mid-term (volunteering, not voting).

        Those new Obama voters will be hard to reach without boots on the ground, and these boots are tired.  I feel your nervousness, dsm dem, but am too tired to do much about it this fall.

  • voter registration mistakes

    I tried to register as a Democrat twice this year: once when I got my driver’s license, and once at the primary polling place. Both times, my voter registration came back with the wrong party (NP and Republican respectively).

    After two mistakes, I thought it was worth letting the Polk County Democrats know about it. They checked into it, and today I got an email from someone in the Polk County Elections Office saying that the first mistake was just a mistake. The mistake at the polling place was probably because the poll workers failed to mark the party in the register, and so it was just assumed I meant to be a Republican. They say this kind of error happened “quite a bit”.

    I don’t know how many of the 23,000 NP-to-Republican switches are among this “quite a bit” group, but I’m guessing the numbers they’re reporting are slightly inflated.