With fewer than 80 days until the election and coming off a string of bad weeks, Donald Trump and the Republican party are looking for a silver lining amidst the chaos. Today, Voter Registration stats were released showing that Republicans are winning the registration race in key battleground states. So if there are more registered Republicans than Democrats right now, shouldn't Trump be pumped?
Based on my experience as the Voter Registration Director in Florida for Barack Obama's re-election campaign, here are 5 reasons why it won’t matter come Election Day:
- The numbers today are just a snapshot of what the final registration rates will be on Election Day
- More voters register in the weeks before their state's voter registration deadline than the earlier months
- Traditionally, Democrats carry the youth, minority, and immigrant vote, and in 2016 it is pretty obvious that will hold true. Each of these groups have lower voter registration rates than their older and whiter counterparts. This is a huge opportunity for Democrats to close the gap and bring their registration rates to par.
- There is a growing trend of new voters not registering with either party, despite largely voting Democratic
- Campaign infrastructures — offices, staff, volunteers — drive voter registration rates
If today's voter registration gap holds in battleground states through voter registration deadlines, then Trump and his team should celebrate. But the event of this happening is unlikely, and I mean incredibly unlikely. It’s still 8-10 weeks before major registration deadlines. Hilary's campaign has a much stronger infrastructure in each battleground state. And with young voters, minorities, and immigrants siding with her, Democrats have a much bigger pool of unregistered citizens to draw from to close that gap and exceed it.
In 2012, we looked at these exact same numbers every week: How many D's and R's are registered, how many voter registration forms were submitted, and how many names successfully made it onto the voter rolls. Those were not important numbers far out from the election or the registration deadline. From January through July, Florida field operations were focused on building teams, deepening the bench of volunteers, honing efforts, and tightening systems so that energy and capacity could be turned on at the most effective times throughout the campaign. For voter registration, that meant close to the deadline.
Our registration rates grew exponentially in the two months leading up to the deadline. More than half of our registration came in the last 6 weeks. One-third of our registration came in the final 2 weeks. Everyone from first time volunteers to Florida's most senior staff went out to complete voter registration shifts, resulting in tens of thousands of forms per day in the final two weeks. When the dust settled, we had collected well over 350,000 registrations — 20% of the Obama campaign's 1.7 million registrations from across the nation. By the end of July 2012, Florida had 4.59 million registered Democrats and 4.15 million registered Republicans. After the registration deadline, it was 4.81 million and 4.26 million respectively. That's a net gain for Democrats of 110,000 registrations in nine weeks. Obama won Florida by fewer than 75,000 votes.
Hillary's campaign has a much stronger infrastructure than her opponent, with a deep ground game in each battleground state. That type of effort just isn't happening on the other side.
As registration deadlines approach, expect to see the Hillary campaign doubling down on its "3 Million Strong" program focused in large part on registration.Field organizers will map out weekly and daily targets to reach their registration goals, set volunteer recruitment targets necessary to hit those goals, test and map hundreds of locations for registration, and hone their systems and training to maximize the impact of every volunteer shift.
A quick Google search will show you headlines from 2012 about low Democratic registration rates through the majority of the year. Another search will show you record registration rates leading up to registration deadlines and close to Election Day. The 2016 election has been anything but typical, but today's registration figures are hardly out of the ordinary.