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Democratic registration advantage at lowest level since 2008

Updated Thursday, May 3, 2012 | 12:57 p.m.

Fewer new voters chose to register as Republicans in April than either Democrats or nonpartisans, but the Democratic advantage among active voters sunk to its lowest level since the run-up to the 2008 election because of an update in Clark County voter rolls.

In April, Democrats held a 36,000 voter advantage over Republicans in Nevada, or 41 percent versus 37 percent. In April 2008, Democrats held a 51,000 voter registration advantage over Republicans, following their highly successful and competitive Democratic caucus. The zenith of Democratic voter registration strength in Nevada came before the 2008 November election. The party held a 100,000 voter registration advantage, 44 percent to 36 percent over Republicans. Obama won Nevada in 2008 by 12.5 percent.

Nevada is targeted by both political parties as a battleground state in the presidential race and for U.S. Senate, where Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas, is challenging incumbent Sen. Dean Heller.

On April 5, the Clark County registrar of voters updated its voter registration figures against records kept by the United States Postal Service. More than 56,000 voters who moved and did not respond to a postcard had their registration status switched to "inactive." About half of those voters were Democrats, and the rest were split among Republicans and those registered as nonpartisans or with third parties, said Larry Lomax, director of the Clark County Registrar of Voters. Voters on the inactive list won't receive sample ballots from the registrar but can still vote.

According to the Nevada secretary of state's office, Republicans increased their active voters by 2,277 while Democrats increased active voters by 3,915 in April. Registered nonpartisans increased their number of active voters by 2,485.

"We have started to ramp up our voter registration, and that will continue as we approach the election," said Zach Hudson, spokesman for the Nevada Democratic Party.

Dave Gallagher, executive director of the Nevada Republican Party, said the party is getting ready to start voter registration drives after its convention this weekend in Sparks. He predicted more active registrations for Republicans once a nominee is finally selected.

"Once that's official, we'll be more energetic," he said. "Every month we'll be gaining on Democrats."

Democrats also believe they have an advantage with nonpartisan voters, which are younger, more likely to belong to be minority and live with a Democrat, according to a Democratic source. Polling consistently shows both minority voters and young voters supporting Democratic candidates more than Republicans.

This story has been updated to better reflect past voter registration numbers.

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