6 votes

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, voter registration is way, way down

1 comment

  1. Kuromantis
    Tis' but an average day now. Related:

    Poll after poll showed a high level of enthusiasm for voting in the general election in 2020, and in the beginning of the year, voter registration surged to match that excitement. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. New registrations have fallen off a cliff.

    The spring of a presidential election year is often a busy time for adding new voters to the rolls, and a recent report from the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve voter turnout and election security, shows registration numbers were even stronger in early 2020 than early 2016. But things changed dramatically in March, at least in the 12 places where FiveThirtyEight or CEIR were able to obtain data on new voters, a category that includes first-time voters, voters who recently moved to the state and, in some states (Texas, for example) even voters who moved between counties in the state.1

    Consider Florida, for example, where 109,859 new voters registered in February of this year, compared to 87,351 registrants in February of 2016. But in April 2020, only 21,031 new voters registered, compared with 52,508 in 2016. The same pattern holds in 10 other states, plus Washington, D.C.: Each one registered fewer new voters in April 2020 than in April 2016, including in states where online voter registration is available.

    Tis' but an average day now. Related:

    Though we don’t have data for how a pandemic has affected registration in the past (since the U.S. hasn’t faced a similar situation for a good century), Weiser cited another instance when voter registration dipped due to extenuating circumstances. In May of 2011, Florida passed a new bill that placed tough restrictions on third-party voter registration organizations, prompting many of them, such as the League of Women Voters, to stop operating in the state. The restrictions were suspended by a judge in May 20125 but the damage had been done; a subsequent study found that about 14 percent fewer voters registered in 2011 compared to the same period in 2007, with a notable drop following the introduction of the bill — and those registrations never completely caught up. In 2008, more than 1 million new voters registered in Florida. In 2012, fewer than 900,000 did, according to the state’s voter registration data.

    Of course, one unusual law in Florida isn’t exactly analogous to a pandemic, and it’s possible that the high level of enthusiasm for this election will be enough to close the gap that COVID-19 created, especially as states begin to reopen and voters return to registration sites like the DMV. So it’s difficult to know whether this drop in registrations is permanent. But it is clear that despite voters’ intense interest in this election, the coronavirus has already made it harder for new voters to participate in it.

    3 votes