GOP gain­ing on Dems in voter reg­is­tra­tion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Hope Yen

WASH­ING­TON >> Repub­li­cans have gained ground on Democrats in reg­is­ter­ing vot­ers in three bat­tle­ground states and kept their ra­zor-thin ad­van­tage in Iowa — en­cour­ag­ing news for Don­ald Trump eight weeks be­fore Elec­tion Day.

Repub­li­cans added hun­dreds of thou­sands of vot­ers to the rolls since 2012 in states in­clud­ing Florida and Ari­zona, and nar­rowed the gap in North Carolina, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by The As­so­ci­ated Press. In Iowa, Repub­li­cans pre­vented Democrats from sur­pass­ing them, aided by a court rul­ing up­hold­ing a ban on vot­ing by ex-felons, who of­ten reg­is­ter as Democrats.

As Elec­tion Day ap­proaches, voter reg­is­tra­tion drives are in full swing.

Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign is stag­ing reg­is­tra­tion ral­lies and ap­peal­ing in par­tic­u­lar to non-whites and young peo­ple, who are more likely to vote early — if they vote at all. Trump is re­ly­ing mostly on a base of white vot­ers, urg­ing sup­port­ers to be vig­i­lant for voter fraud and “rig­ging.”

“The Clin­ton cam­paign can­not come close to our out­put,” said Sean Spicer, the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s chief strate­gist, in a cam­paign me­moran­dum Mon­day.

The lat­est reg­is­tra­tion num­bers aren’t an as­sur­ance of new vot­ers for Trump. Some changes re­flect those who have died and been re­moved from the list, while oth­ers are in­ac­tive, not hav­ing voted in re­cent elec­tions. In Florida, newly reg­is­tered His­pan­ics are turn­ing against the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, stung by his an­ti­im­mi­grant rhetoric. And Democrats his­tor­i­cally have done well in sign­ing up new vot­ers in the fi­nal stretch.

But the fig­ures, when avail­able, of­fer im­por­tant clues as to how each party stands.

IOWA

Iowa is a bright spot for Trump among bat­tle­ground states, with Repub­li­cans now hold­ing an edge of 19,000 to­tal reg­is­tered vot­ers over Democrats, 691,000 to 672,000. While in­de­pen­dents are the most nu­mer­ous at 755,000, much of the state’s Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment has ral­lied around Trump. A state court in June up­held a ban on vot­ing for an es­ti­mated 20,000 ex-felons, many of them AfricanAmer­i­can.

The race is “about even” and “very close,” said Gov. Terry Branstad in a re­cent AP in­ter­view. In the run-up to the state’s early vot­ing, which be­gins Sept. 29, the Trump cam­paign strug­gled ini­tially in its ground game, lead­ing Branstad to of­fer ad­vice to the New York bil­lion­aire on how to get a leg up: TV ad­ver­tis­ing, ap­peal­ing to the state’s farm­ers.

Branstad’s son, Eric, is run­ning Trump’s cam­paign in Iowa.

Some groups have been ac­tively mo­bi­liz­ing, which is likely to ben­e­fit Democrats. About 20,000 col­lege stu­dents since April have signed com­mit­ments to reg­is­ter and vote, ac­cord­ing to Nex­tGen Cli­mate, a group seek­ing to com­bat cli­mate change. Be­cause Iowa of­fers same-day reg­is­tra­tion, those num­bers won’t be re­flected un­til next month if they fol­low through.

FLORIDA

Both cam­paigns have heav­ily tar­geted Florida, but Democrats have seen their ad­van­tage shrink to 258,000 ac­tive vot­ers — down from 535,000 in 2012. Over­all, Democrats de­clined to 4.69 mil­lion com­pared to a 4 per­cent rise for Repub­li­cans to 4.4 mil­lion, driven by Repub­li­can gains among white vot­ers. Reg­is­tered “no party” in­de­pen­dents jumped 13 per­cent to 2.9 mil­lion.

The state im­posed voter re­stric­tions in 2011, in­clud­ing cuts to voter reg­is­tra­tion and early vot­ing, that have since been soft­ened.

But the pic­ture re­mains murky.

The Repub­li­can ad­van­tage is pri­mar­ily due to de­clines among pre­vi­ous Demo­cratic vot­ers — deaths, moves out of state and vot­ers re­moved af­ter be­ing in­ac­tive for long pe­ri­ods, as well as switches to the Repub­li­can Party.

Democrats are reg­is­ter­ing more new vot­ers than Repub­li­cans. Nearly half of all first-time vot­ers reg­is­tered since 2013 were non-white, many of them His­panic.

Since Jan­uary, of the 121,000 newly reg­is­tered His­pan­ics, 42 per­cent are Democrats and 41 per­cent are “no party,” com­pared to 16 per­cent for Repub­li­cans. It’s a shift from the Jan. 1, 2013 to Aug. 1, 2016 pe­riod, when newly reg­is­tered His­pan­ics were most likely to pick “no party.” Be­fore 2013, His­pan­ics had more fre­quently opted to reg­is­ter as Repub­li­can, with 39.5 per­cent of them Democrats, 30.5 per­cent “no party” and 28.4 per­cent Repub­li­cans.

“There’s lit­tle ques­tion that the rise in Demo­cratic reg­is­tra­tion of His­pan­ics in Florida is a reaction to the rise of Don­ald Trump,” said Daniel Smith, a Univer­sity of Florida pro­fes­sor who an­a­lyzes trends.

NORTH CAROLINA

Democrats hold a clear reg­is­tra­tion ad­van­tage in North Carolina, but the gap has nar­rowed.

A Repub­li­can-con­trolled leg­is­la­ture in 2013 im­posed a voter ID law and cur­tailed early vot­ing and reg­is­tra­tion. But a fed­eral ap­peals court in July in­val­i­dated the law as dis­crim­i­na­tory against blacks, who are more likely to vote be­fore Elec­tion Day.

Democrats hold a lead of about 645,000 vot­ers. That’s down from an ad­van­tage of 818,000 in 2012.

De­spite a reg­is­tra­tion deficit, Repub­li­cans have been suc­cess­ful with voter turnout, cur­rently hold­ing the gov­er­nor­ship and both Se­nate seats. Obama lost the state by 92,000 votes to Mitt Rom­ney.

Elec­tion of­fi­cials pre­dict high over­all turnout, spurring an ap­pear­ance by Clin­ton in Char­lotte last week.

WEST

In the di­ver­si­fy­ing West, Democrats re­gained their edge in Colorado, but face chal­lenges in Ne­vada and Ari­zona.

Boosted by rapid Latino growth, Colorado saw an in­crease in reg­is­tered Democrats since 2012, com­pared to a 1.5 per­cent de­cline for Repub­li­cans. That al­lowed Colorado Democrats to sur­pass Repub­li­cans ear­lier this year for the first time in more than 20 years. For 2016, the state will con­duct all-mail bal­lot­ing, be­lieved to slightly fa­vor Democrats.

In Ne­vada, where Trump is com­pet­ing hard, Democrats main­tained their ad­van­tage, but Repub­li­cans have nar­rowed the gap.

And in Ari­zona, tra­di­tion­ally a Repub­li­can state, the pic­ture was mixed. Repub­li­cans grew at a faster pace, but the big­gest jump was among in­de­pen­dents, to 1.4 mil­lion. Repub­li­cans hold a reg­is­tra­tion edge of about 159,000, although an in­flux of His­panic vot­ers and third­party in­ter­est have given Democrats hope.

The state has been re­ceiv­ing na­tional at­ten­tion with a re­cent hack of voter reg­is­tra­tion records.

M. SPENCER GREEN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this file photo, vot­ers cast their bal­lots in the Illi­nois pri­mary in Hins­dale, Ill. Repub­li­cans have gained ground on Democrats’ strength in reg­is­ter­ing vot­ers in three bat­tle­ground states — and kept their ra­zor-thin ad­van­tage in Iowa, of­fer­ing some hope for Don­ald Trump and rais­ing the stakes over bal­lot ac­cess in the fi­nal weeks be­fore Elec­tion Day.

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