New Voter Registration Plummets Due To Coronavirus

( This is clearly not a normal presidential election year. The coronavirus pandemic has thrown off nearly everything that we’d consider normal for a June before the General Election — including primaries, conventions, debates, media ads and even rhetoric among the parties.

Another consequence this year has been that new voter registration has dropped dramatically when compared to years before.

According to a report from the Center for Election Innovation & Research, a nonpartisan group, new voter registration dropped 70% in April of this year compared to April 2016 in 11 states. That has presented a new challenge for candidates, Republicans and Democrats alike, who are normally trying to rally new support at this time of year.

Of particular interest is that a group of swing states have experienced at least a 50% reduction in new voter registration from April 2016’s numbers. These states include Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia (which went Republican in 2016), as well as Colorado and Virginia (which went Democratic).

Texas has also experienced at least a 50% reduction, and that’s a state Democrats were hoping to make in-roads in after President Donald Trump captured that state in the 2016 election. California’s new voter registration dropped by 75%, according to the report.

New voter registration was actually going really well earlier this year. It was, in fact, far ahead of the pace of 2016 in February, until it started to drop in March once the coronavirus pandemic hit, and states began issuing stay-at-home orders.

Registration didn’t really plummet until April, though, when two of the most successful methods of voter registration disappeared — third parties going to schools and public venues, and getting people to sign up to vote when they apply or renew their driver’s license.

As the executive director for the Center for Election Innovation & Research, David Becker, said:

“Other efforts to register voters are going to be more important than ever. If we’re completely opened up and no one is worried about the virus in September, we’re probably going to be OK. But I don’t know many people who are really banking on that. I think most public health experts think that we’re going to need to be concerned about social distancing and large groups of people for a while.

“This is not something that’s Democratic or Republican. Both sides rely on the months leading up to a presidential election to engage with potential new voters and get them registered and hopefully voting. And it’s really hard to engage with a voter if you can’t get them registered.”

If new voter registration remains low through November, it may actually favor Trump. In this case, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden would have to rely on convincing people who voted for Trump in 2016 to change their minds at the polls this time. He wouldn’t have the benefit of having a huge swath of new voters who combined could overcome whatever margin of victory Trump had in certain states in 2016.

Low new voter registration numbers may also result in low vote-by-mail numbers, as most people who choose this option do so when they register.