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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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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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