Iowa caucuses produce "substantial gains" in Democratic and Republican voter registrations

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
DEMOCRATS: 586,835
REPUBLICANS: 615,763
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
DEMOCRATS: 6,407
REPUBLICANS: 3,643
NO PARTY: 1,851
TOTAL: 11,974

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

***Important Notes:
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.

  • Johnson County

    Here’s some stats from Johnson County. As always, active status only.

    (Note: In at least some places, the IDP printed caucus lists with Inactive status voters included – which could cause those folks problems next time they try to vote. But I’ve spent nearly 15 years trying to explain to staffers that Inactive status is NOT the same as “Weak Voting Dem.” Inactive status would more accurately be thought of as “preliminary cancellation.”)

    End of day Friday 1/29/2016 – Pre-caucus
    Democratic 37,573 43.42%
    Republican 17,582 20.32%
    Green 196 0.23%
    Libertarian 444 0.51%
    No Party 30,736 35.52%
    County Total 86,531

    2/16/2016 caucus data entry complete
    Democratic 42,909 47.74%
    Republican 19,529 21.73%
    Green 132 0.15%
    Libertarian 364 0.40%
    No Party 26,949 29.98%
    County Total 89,883

    Change
    Democratic +5,336 +4.32%
    Republican +1,947 +1.41%
    Green -64 -0.08%
    Libertarian -80 -0.11%
    No Party -3,787 -5.54%
    County Total +3,352

    Not ALL of this is caucus, but virtually all of it is.

    I’m the guy who processes these stats for the auditor’s office. My pre-caucus benchmark is end of Friday 1/29 because 1) I took caucus day off work to do caucus stuff and 2) by that point the office was telling people “the lists are printed, take the form with you.”

    The office didn’t process many records in the days right around the caucus because we had a small local special election on Feb. 2 and there was a pre-registration deadline of January 22.

    The Johnson County Republicans delivered their registrations to the office Wednesday afternoon 2/3 and I brought in the Democratic registrations Thursday morning 2/4. I also brought in treats for the co-workers because 1) I had just dumped a ton of work on them, between the two parties it was about 10,000 forms and 2) I was taking two days off to start on my four day credentials marathon. The office’s data entry started Thursday afternoon, as soon as the voter history for the Tuesday special election was updated.

    When I got back on Monday 2/8 they had saved me plenty of work, and we spent the entire week pretty much just entering caucus registrations. We were about 99 and 44/100ths done by the end of Friday afternoon 2/12; after the three day weekend, on Tuesday 2/16 we dealt with a handful of “problem” registrations (missing info or signatures, etc.) Then I ran these stats and we started processing routine registrations again.

    Both Democrats and Republicans saw bigger gains than 2008, though both peaked short of their record percentages. (Democrats peaked after the 2008 county primary, and Republicans peaked after the 1994 Branstad-Grandy primary.) No party registrations hit an all-time low, and dipped below 30% for a couple days (Most routine registrations come from drivers’ licenses, and those lean heavily No Party. Too soon to tell how online registration impact the stats in the long term.)

    Johnson County numbers will move a lot again in the near future; for this year’s list maintenance mailing we’re doing a county wide mailing.

    • interesting

      I would imagine that most counties saw more registration changes in 2008 than this year, but Johnson County was an anomaly because so many people connected with the U of I weren’t back in town on January 3, 2008.

  • a nit picking correction

    “Iowa’s same-day voter registration law allows citizens to change their party affiliation at the precinct caucus site.” The caucuses aren’t an election, so as far as auditors are concerned they’re just a big party meeting and voter registration drive. Both parties allowed party changes, address changes, or new registrations long before the Election Day Registration law started in 2008, and the extra requirements of EDR (ID and proof of address) weren’t required by the parties this year and have never been required by Dems. (I don’t know entire history of ID at GOP caucuses.) So correct in essence, just not in detail.

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