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December 5th, 2012

Democrats Regain Voter Registration Edge in Iowa

Republicans’ voter registration edge in Iowa lasted less than seven months. New data released by the Secretary of State’s office shows that at the end of November, Democrats in Iowa outnumbered Republicans 640,776-636,315, a difference of 4,461. That is the first time they have held the lead since March. Both parties are dwarfed by the number of registered independents, which surged to 722,348.

The Democrats’ success can be attributed to their superior ground organization in the lead-up to the November 6 elections. The Iowa GOP held a registration edge of more than 21,000 at the end of July, but that lead quickly dissipated as Election Day drew closer.

The registration data is further proof of the strength of Iowa Democrats’ early voter program. 405,913 Iowans cast absentee ballots for President Obama, compared to 268,558 for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, according to certified results released on Monday. Drawing enormous crowds thanks to appearances from celebrities like Bruce Springsteen, the Democrats used the events to register thousands of voters and have them request absentee ballots.

The fact that Iowa Republicans held the lead three months before Election Day, but lost it in November, shows that the GOP Victory turnout apparatus was inferior. Although both parties increased their registration numbers significantly in the final days of the campaign, Republicans gained less than 7,000 new voters from the end of October. Iowa Democrats increased by more than 12,000.

The most interesting number in the newly released data is the large increase in the amount of independent voters. There were 694,558 registered independents at the end of October. The number increased by 27,790 in November. Considering the overall success of Democrats on the ballot in Iowa, it is safe to say that the majority of the newly registered independents voted with the Dems on Election Day.

Iowa’s 4th Congressional District remains solidly conservative, as Republicans hold a voter registration edge of almost 50,000 there. However in the 3rd Congressional District, where Republican Tom Latham ousted fellow incumbent Leonard Boswell, the GOP lead in voters is down to 6,700. However, Latham beat Boswell by more than 33,000 votes. Liberal blog Bleeding Heartland has an excellent breakdown of the county-by-county voter registration totals, as well as how the presidential and congressional candidates fared in each county.

Iowa Democrats built a large voter registration edge over their counterparts beginning in May 2006. The margin widened to more than 111,000 by March 2009 and remained over 100,000 for more than a year. However, the reemergence of Terry Branstad as a candidate and his gubernatorial primary battle against Bob Vander Plaats helped turn the tide in June 2010. That primary, coupled with dissatisfaction of President Obama and Democrats in general helped the GOP narrow the gap. By July 2010, the margin dropped to 46,104.

Thanks largely to the Iowa Caucus, Republicans moved ahead of Democrats early this year. Now that the lead is gone, it appears unlikely Republicans will regain it anytime soon. Democrats are likely to have a competitive primary race to determine their 2014 gubernatorial nominee, which should help them maintain, or increase, their voter registration edge.

One of Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker’s main goals was to have more Republicans than Democrats in the state at the end of 2012. Barring a remarkable turnaround in December, that outcome is highly unlikely.

Iowa Voter Registration Democrats Republicans Independents
October 31 628,043 629,443 694,558
November 30 640,776 636,315 722,348

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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