Las Vegas Sun

February 9, 2016

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Memo from Carson City:

Nevada Democrats’ voter registration lead expands over Republicans

When Nevada’s voter registration rolls were scrubbed earlier this year to reflect people who had moved, Republicans saw hope. Four years ago, Nevada Democrats had an advantage that peaked at nearly 100,000 voters, but 36,700 dropped in April, to just over a third of that number.

Was this a sign that Nevada is a much different state than it was in 2008, when President Barack Obama easily put Nevada in his column?

The Democratic machine has begun making up the difference. Even if they haven’t reached their peak from four years ago, they are registering voters at a much faster clip than Republicans.

New numbers released this week show Democrats have increased their advantage over Republicans to 47,500 voters.

Since April, Democratic voter registration has increased by 20,500. Republican registration in that time has increased by 9,700.

For another point of comparison that reflects poorly for Republicans, consider that nonpartisan voters — those who choose to pick no party to affiliate with — increased by 11,000. And no one is actively seeking to register them.

Republicans have been promising for months to ramp up voter registration efforts, to target likely Republican households or persuade voters to switch.

The first round of promises came during the presidential primary campaign, when Nevada got frequent visits from Republican candidates and concentrated media attention.

More promises came after it became clear that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee.

“Every month we’ll be gaining on Democrats,” said David Gallagher, the former executive director of the Nevada Republican Party.

Now, in the months until November’s election, Republicans point to $166,000 in national money being given to the state party for a voter registration effort.

“We have to take advantage of the fact that Republicans continue to move to the state and Nevada is more Republican than it was in 2008,” said Darren Littell, spokesman for Team Nevada, a conglomeration of GOP campaigns established after national figures lost faith in the state party. He said a private firm with voter identification experience will be executing the voter registration effort.

The disparity between the Republican and Democratic parties in Nevada is a well-worn theme in political circles.

Put shortly, Democrats are well organized and have been building an infrastructure for eight years with the help of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Republicans, meanwhile, have gone through a series of titular heads, and top elected Republicans have spent their political capital elsewhere.

It may seem like inside baseball that has little real-world impact when compared to questions of the economy, foreign policy or other issues that voters care about.

But elections are about numbers. Voters who register with a party are a tangible indication of just that.

The disparity on voter registration is likely more a reflection of the strength of the organizations.

For example, Republicans aren’t trailing statewide. In Washoe County, where Republicans are better organized, the GOP has held steady with Democrats.

Dave Buell, the Washoe County Republican Party chairman, said he couldn’t speak to what was happening in the rest of the state.

But, he said, “It’s a situation people are aware of.”

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