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Inside the early vote numbers: New voters

Registering to vote

We started this campaign with the fundamental belief that the electorate isn’t something that’s set in stone, and that we could change and expand it. Americans decided a long time ago that our democracy works better when more people participate in it. So our campaign has made a priority of bringing more citizens into the process and helping millions of new voters exercise their rights.

The variety of voting habits is nearly as diverse as the political spectrum. Some voters come out every time, no matter what. Others voted in 2008, but not in 2010. Then there are new voters who weren’t registered till this year and are excited to cast their first ballots for President Obama’s final campaign. Of course, there are also citizens who’ve been registered forever but never make it out to the polls.

Our campaign strategy in 2012 was based, in part, on registering new voters and turning them out for early vote and on Election Day—and that’s happening. To borrow a phrase from a nervous Republican consultant talking in Florida this week about our turnout success, we’re cleaning the other guys’ clock. Here’s what we’re seeing in the states:

  • Colorado: Since July, Democrats have gained 64,768 net new registrants vs. 38,848 for Republicans. Democrats now have a better registration margin than we did in November 2008, when we won the state by 9 points.

  • Florida: Since June, Democrats have gained 227,991 net new registrants vs. 126,643 for Republicans. Since November 2008, more than 80% of all new Florida registrations—455,000 of them—have been from Latinos and African Americans, and these voters have chosen to register as Democrats rather than Republicans by a 90/10 margin.

  • Iowa: Since August, Democrats have gained 16,257 net new registrants vs. 2,428 for Republicans.

  • North Carolina: Since July, Democrats have gained 125,459 net new registrants vs. 71,311 for Republicans. Since November 2008, nearly half have been African American or Latino. Better still, voter registration in North Carolina isn’t even over yet. It continues until Saturday, and Democrats have out-registered Republicans every single day for the past two months by an average margin of nearly 2:1.

  • New Hampshire: Since September, while Democrats have added new registrants, Republicans have actually lost more than 1,400 of them.

  • Nevada: Since February, Democrats have gained 68,427 net new registrants vs. 32,428 for Republicans—largely thanks to new African American and Latino voters. Our registration advantage is now at an all-time high in Nevada, even bigger than when we won the state by more than 12 percentage points in 2008.

  • Pennsylvania: Since May, Democrats have gained 117,786 net new registrants vs. 62,500 for Republicans, building on our million-voter-plus registration advantage there.

And among the folks in battleground states with party registration, among what are considered “sporadic voters”—those who didn’t vote in the midterm elections two years ago—Democrats have a 19-point advantage in ballots cast. Nearly half (46%) of non-midterm voters who have voted already in these states are Democrats, while 27% are Republicans.

Behind each of these numbers are incredible stories of citizens excited to exercise their franchise for the first time.

Just listen to Kyree, a fall fellow and freshman at Central State University in Ohio, who told us:

“Voting is a lot more important than just choosing a candidate. It’s making a decision to better your community, your society, your nation. It is one of the things in this world that shows that you can truly make a difference. … When I finally had the opportunity to vote, I almost cried. It made me feel that I could impact my life and the lives of others."

Or young adults like Bailey, who’s also from Ohio. She turned 18 this year and registered and committed to early vote with the encouragement of one of our neighborhood team leaders who was going door to door. Now Bailey and her mother are not just registered voters—they’re also volunteers, canvassing for President Obama and getting their neighbors to join them at the polls.

These stories belong to students like Mark, a freshman at East Carolina University who said he knows every vote counts because the President’s margin in North Carolina four years ago—just 14,000 votes—is nearly half his school’s population. And they belong to people like Maui, a UNLV student who recently registered and early voted on campus, then went classroom by classroom to bring others to the polls.

In 2008, President Obama was elected with the help of energized and organized first-time voters like these. In the 2010 midterms, we saw a lot of folks stay home, and the results weren’t pretty. Next Tuesday’s outcome—and the path our country will take for many years to come—will depend on whether we see new voters turning out or sitting out. We like what we’re seeing.

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