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CSPG Report: Voter Registration Declines in Many States

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A new report released by the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance was released today that finds – contrary to press accounts of a surge in voter registration across the country – that a large number of states have seen their voter rolls decline or flatten since the 2004 election.

From the report:

A comparison of official voter registration records in the fall of 2004 with those in the fall of 2008 reveals the following:
• Registration has not improved in nearly half of the uncontested states.
• Registration has increased in nearly all of the states targeted by the campaigns.
• More Democrats than Republicans have been registered in targeted states.

Voter registration stagnated or declined in many of the states that have not been intensely contested in the presidential election. Thirteen of the thirty-three states and District of Columbia that were not targeted saw their registration stagnate or decline between fall 2004 and fall 2008. For instance, registration declined in South Dakota by 5 percent since 2004 and slipped in New York by 2 percent. The crusade to reach out to new voters and bring them into the electoral process has skipped large parts of the country.

Registration in the largest and fastest growing states has been neglected. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the population in Texas expanded by 7 percent between 2004 and 2007, but the voter rolls grew by only 1 percent. Registration also lagged behind population growth in New York and Illinois.

There is a more general pattern: Registration trailed population growth in 17 of 33 uncontested states. What stands out is that many of these states experienced unusually large population growth. Indeed, registration rolls lagged behind population expansion in 6 of the 8 fastest growing states (including Arizona, Utah, North Carolina, and Georgia).

States that are singled out by the presidential campaigns are showered with resources to register voters and the impact is plain: 14 of the 15 most contested states expanded voter registration since 2004.

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