Monday, March 23, 2009

Voter Registration No Longer Effective Campaign Tool

In preparation for the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, Republican strategists pursued voter registration with a vengeance. Much to the dismay of the Democrat Party, registration efforts proved overwhelmingly successful for the Republicans. With increased voter counts in strategic locations, they were able to shift vote totals in key states, handing the presidency to George W. Bush in both of those elections. Now, that tactic may have run its course.

During the 2008 election cycle, an interesting phenomenon occurred here in Alabama. In several municipal elections, and later in several counties during the presidential election, more votes were cast than the Federal Census predicted for the total number of voters. Being a native Alabamian, my first thought was, “They voted the graveyard.” Alabama, like many southern states, has a reputation for election-night shenanigans. But as I pushed the thought a little further, I came to a different conclusion.

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the 1980s, Democrats pursued voter registration as a way of increasing their voter base. The two Clinton campaigns emphasized it as well. Republicans took that effort to new heights with the George Bush campaigns. Then, with Barack Obama’s candidacy, Democrats went even further, hiring, encouraging, and facilitating the use of outside agencies and organizations in a massive effort to identify and register as many new voters as possible. Because of this prolonged emphasis from both parties, I think voter registration has invaded the margin of error for the Federal Census. Voter registration has reached so deep that the total number of registered voters in many local wards and precincts is a more accurate reflection of the local population count than the Federal Census.

That means, for many areas in the country, voter registration has reached its maximum potential for influencing the outcome of an election. In the future, both parties will be forced to develop new tactics and strategies for shifting electoral advantages.

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