Government

Capitol ideas: More good news for Democrats in voter numbers

The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

Is it more evidence of a blue wave building off Iowa’s shores?

Iowa Democrats have added more than 24,000 registered voters to their ranks and closed the gap on their Republican counterparts, says Iowa Secretary of State reports.

One cannot predict whether the Democrats’ bump, which came after Iowa’s primary elections in June, portends a similar bump in support in this fall’s General Election, experts say. At the very least, however, it’s the type of news that’s better that no news at all for Iowa Democrats.

“It’s better to post an increase than not,” said Dennis Goldford, a political-science professor at Drake University. “But it’s still no guarantee of what’s going to happen on Election Day.”

The number of active registered Democratic voters in Iowa jumped by 24,190 from June to July. That represents a 4.1 percent increase.

The jump came after the June 5 primary election.

Iowa Democrats also significantly outgained Republicans, who added just 3,478 voters in the same span. That enabled Democrats to cut nearly in half the gap between active registered Democrats and Republicans in Iowa: the gap shrunk by more than 20,700 registered voters.

The GOP still has 24,438 more registered voters.

A few factors likely were at play.

l Democratic enthusiasm: Democratic voters have been fired up since the 2016 election gave Republicans complete lawmaking control at the federal level and in Iowa.

l Contested primaries: Iowa Democrats had contested and high-profile primary elections for governor and in the state’s two most partisan-balanced Congressional districts. There were no such primary races for Republicans, whose headliner primary was for state agriculture secretary.

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It is now the job of Democrats and liberal organizations to remain in contact with those newly registered voters, sustain their interest and ensure they vote in this fall’s election. There is no guarantee they will vote, even though they are registered. And Democrats know their voters typically turn out worse in non-presidential elections.

As a cautionary tale, Goldford noted that in November 2010, Iowa Democrats had 44,601 more registered voters. Despite that advantage, Democrats lost the governor’s race and control of the Iowa House.

Also noteworthy in the latest Iowa voter registration numbers is the significant drop in no-party voters, the state’s largest bloc. No-party voters fell by more than 23,000 from June to July.

No-party voters turn out even worse than Democrats in midterm elections, Goldford said. And of them, only roughly a third are true no-party voters; a third vote like Republicans and a third vote like Democrats, Goldford said.

So while the new voter registration numbers brought good news for Iowa Democrats, and for Democrats that is better than the alternative, the crystal ball for November’s midterm election remains cloudy.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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