Party-building is said to be one of the key benefits of the Iowa caucus system, and high participation in this year’s caucuses produced “substantial gains” in voter registration totals for both major parties, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announced yesterday. Iowa’s same-day voter registration law allows citizens to change their party affiliation at the precinct caucus site. Tens of thousands of people did so on February 1 as Republican turnout exceeded the previous Iowa caucus record by more than 50 percent, while Democratic turnout was the second-highest in Iowa caucus history. CORRECTION: John Deeth notes in the comments that “Both parties allowed party changes, address changes, or new registrations [on caucus night] long before the Election Day Registration law started in 2008.”
I enclose the full press release below. As of February 22, Democrats have had a net gain of 29,181 registered voters, and Republicans have had a net gain of 21,262 registered voters. Both numbers will rise in the coming weeks, since county auditors have 45 days to process voter registration forms. The GOP will likely add more voters than the Democrats, because the Polk County Auditor’s office has not yet processed some 9,000 forms from Republican caucuses in Iowa’s most populous county, according to Kevin Hall, communications director for the Secretary of State’s Office. It’s not clear how many of those forms represent new registrants and party-switchers and how many are change of address forms for voters already on the rolls.
A plurality of registered Iowa voters are still aligned with neither party, but the number of no-party voters dropped by 47,211 between February 1 and February 22 and will decline further as county auditors continue to process forms from the caucuses.
Note: readers may notice that the numbers from different categories in the press release don’t add up to the overall net gains for each parties. Hall explained the discrepancy in comments I’ve posted below.
Iowa Secretary of State press release, February 22 (emphasis in original):
State Parties Receive Large Boost from Caucus Night Registrations
DES MOINES – Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announces that both the Republican Party of Iowa and the Iowa Democratic Party saw substantial gains in their voter registration numbers as a result of the February 1 Iowa Caucuses. Additionally, Iowa gained almost 12,000 new registrations between February 1-February 22, most of which are directly attributable to the Caucus. Iowans were allowed to register to vote or change party affiliation at their Caucus location.
“I am very pleased to see so many Iowans engaged in the political process, especially the 12,000 new people who registered to vote,” Secretary Pate said. “Citizen participation is key for the future of our state and country. I hope everyone who registered and participated on February 1 remains involved in their community and votes in every election.”
VOTER REGISTRATION TOTALS ON FEBRUARY 1
NO PARTY: 727,112
VOTER REGISTRATION TOTALS ON FEBRUARY 22
DEMOCRATS: 616,016 (gain of 29,181)
REPUBLICANS: 637,025 (gain of 21,262)
NO PARTY: 679,901 (decrease of 47,211)
NEW VOTER REGISTRATIONS FROM FEB.1-FEB 22
NO PARTY: 1,851
Since participation in the Iowa Caucuses requires being a member of a specific party, there was also a significant amount of Iowans changing their party affiliation on Caucus Night. Those numbers for February are below:
PARTY AFFILIATION CHANGES BETWEEN FEBRUARY 1-FEBRUARY 22
NO PARTY TO DEMOCRAT: 26,030
NO PARTY TO REPUBLICAN: 20,769
DEMOCRAT TO REPUBLICAN: 5,709
DEMOCRAT TO NO PARTY: 1,032
REPUBLICAN TO DEMOCRAT: 5,080
REPUBLICAN TO NO PARTY: 994
County-by-county breakdown. [note from desmoinesdem: view this release on the Secretary of State’s website to click on the downloadable spread sheet]
It is impossible to tell exactly how many of these registrations actually took place on Caucus Night, however we are confident that the Caucuses were the driving force behind the increases and changes in voter registration.
County auditors’ offices have up to 45 days to process registrations. It is likely some paperwork from the Iowa Caucus has not been processed yet.
For a look at how these numbers compared to the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, click here: http://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/VRStatsArchive/2008/CoFeb08.pdf
Kevin Hall explained by e-mail,
The totals came simply from subtracting the total statewide registrants on Feb. 22 from what they were on Feb. 1.
If you go into all the other data, it is never going to match exactly, for a variety of reasons. Voter registration data is constantly evolving. The two lists (the statewide totals and the party changes) were not pulled at exactly the same instant, so they’re not going to matchup perfectly.
Both reports are accurate, but they are a snapshot in time of ever-changing data.
There’s a constant stream of new registrants being added to the system, or some changing party affiliation, changing their address, etc.
Also the Party Change report could also reflect more than one instance for a voter if they changed to a REP or DEM party on Caucus Night and then changed back to No Party or the previous party they were registered as before the Caucus. So, there’s likely some duplication in the Party Change data.
The county auditors are also currently conducting National Change of Address processing, so that is affecting the numbers as well.
So, if you’re trying to make the numbers matchup by comparing the two different sets of data, they’re not going to.
There were other mitigating factors to that I didn’t include in the release. 42 people changed from DEM to OTHER. 671 changed from OTHER to DEM. 55 people changed from REP to OTHER. 441 changed from OTHER to REP.
On a side note, it doesn’t appear that the Polk County GOP forms had been processed by the county auditor’s office by Feb. 22 when we did the news release. They turned in around 9,000 forms, so the REP numbers are likely to jump up once that is done.