# Voter Registration

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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The Secretary of State race is getting interesting

The Republican primary campaign for Iowa secretary of state has lacked the drama and publicity of the governor’s race, but it is turning into a test of strength between a “fresh face” and a veteran of Iowa Republican politics.

The nominee challenging our outstanding Secretary of State Michael Mauro will be either Council Bluffs City Council member Matt Schultz or former State Representative George Eichhorn (“say I-Corn”).

A third Republican qualified for the ballot in this race, but I’m focusing on Eichhorn and Schultz because Chris Sanger is not a serious contender. He has no campaign staff and has raised only about $400, all at bake sales in Stuart, where the candidate and his wife own a bakery. The only newsworthy moment in Sanger’s campaign was his involvement in a meet and greet organized by a guy who thinks killing abortion providers is justifiable homicide. In fairness to Sanger, though, he may have a place in the record books for choosing the longest campaign committee name in Iowa history: Elect Chris Sanger, He Will Vote The Way People Want. Someone should have told him the secretary of state isn’t a legislator who votes on policies.

But I digress. Links and commentary about Schultz and Eichhorn are after the jump.  

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Same-day voter registration works well

Secretary of State Mike Mauro announced last Friday that a record 1,546,453 Iowans voted in the general election, including 47,553 who registered to vote on election day. In the days before Iowa allowed same-day voter registration, many people did not vote because by the time they became interested in a political campaign, the deadline to register had passed.

Republicans across the country throw around allegations about voter fraud, but states that have had same-day registration for a long time have not experienced this problem.

Take Minnesota, for instance. About one one-hundredth of a percent of the vote separates Al Franken and Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate race. And yet:

[I]t’s worth noting that neither the Al Franken nor Norm Coleman camps has accused election officials of allowing significant numbers of ineligible people to vote. The two campaigns’ close scrutiny of events on Nov. 4 apparently has found nothing notably defective in either the voter registration or sign-in that occurred at the polls.

That’s the way it has been in every election since Minnesota began allowing voters to register at the polls in 1973. Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky said that, in his 24 years as a state and county elections administrator, the number of cases of orchestrated group efforts to subvert the law by registering improperly or voting multiple times has been “exactly zero.”

“There has been the occasional individual” who attempted to vote when or where he or she was not eligible. “But we have their driver’s license or their Social Security numbers,” or other means of detecting inaccurate registrations. “We find them and we prosecute them,” he said.

Only nine states allow voters to register on election day. I’d like to see same-day voter registration implemented across the country.

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Important information for voters who have moved

I don’t plan to ever move again, if I can help it, but we live in a mobile society, and many voters have moved since the last election.

John Deeth wrote an important piece for his blog and for Iowa Independent:

A mailing this week from the Secretary of State’s office could be a nice convenience to recently moved voters, or a headache at the polls. Voters who think they’re updating their address may in fact be canceling their registration.

If you’ve moved to a different county in Iowa and you’ve filled out an official change of address card, you have canceled your registration in your old county but have not registered in your new county until you fill out a separate voter registration form.

Iowa now has same-day voter registration, so you could register at your new address on election day, but to do that you have to bring identification and proof of your new address to the polling place.

Deeth has more details in his post. The bottom line is, make sure you are registered to vote at your new address, or make sure you bring ID and proof of address with you on election day.

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Obama: The Only Thing You Need to Know, Part 3

This week I've been doing / will be doing a series of diaries entitled Obama: The Only Thing You Need to Know (Yes, the irony is apparent).  Two days ago, this started with the first diary on Barack Obama's time as a constitutional law senior lecturer at the University of Chicago, entitled Obama: The Only Thing You Need to Know.  It was so successful that yesterday I followed up with a diary on his time as a civil rights lawyer, entitled Obama: The Only Thing You Need to Know, Part 2.

I know everyone is waiting for the diary on community organizing, but today I chose to focus on an area of Barack Obama's experience that often gets overlooked, and ironically may have helped Bill Clinton win the election in 1992.  I'm of course talking about when Barack spearheaded Project Vote! on the eve of the 1992 election, with “George Bush gaining ground in Illinois” and “Carol Moseley Braun embroiled in allegations about her mother's Medicare liability”.

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Jacobs Has Poor Case Against Same Day Registration

Des Moines Representative Libby Jacobs argued against same day voter registration today on Iowa public radio, but threw in the towel when asked for evidence to support her view point.

The only legitimate argument Jacobs made was that voters could cast multiple ballots at multiple polls if the bill passes.  When asked if this actually happens in the several states that have practised same day registration for many years, Jacobs said she hasn’t kept up with the results in other states. 

Ha!  You can bet she’d know about it if there actually were any evidence of busybody voters.  So she is just using this argument without bothering to see if it’s true?

Jacobs and a couple callers made other, even weaker points against the bill.  Jacobs wanted to make sure voters were “eductated” and implied that educated voters would have been registered under the old system.  A caller said if voters couldn’t get registered under the old system they wouldn’t be likely to use the new more lenient system anyway.  Another caller worried that last minute campaign surprises (i.e., dirty tricks) might prompt new voters to pour into the polls based on erroneous information. 

These three arguments all indicate lack of faith in law-abiding voters. 

So opponents don’t trust voters to have good judgement, to be educated or to behave honestly.  All these worries can be directed against voters who register well in advance of elections.  There is apparently no bureaucratic reason for requiring advance registration.  At least no one  mentioned one today.

Jacobs also said this is not a partisan issue in that there is no Republican party caucus position on it.  It’s just a coincidence that the bill passed the House state government committee on a party line vote!