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As registration deadlines hit, what's the count for Republicans and Democrats?


News organizations are finding enormous increases in voter registration — but it's the party breakdowns that will be the big story.

By Barry Sussman

Q. In states where voters register by political party, how many new Democrats/Republicans/Independents have enrolled?

Q. In states where registration is not by party, is it Republican or Democratic areas that have seen the most new enrollment?

Q. And what about fraud in voter registration, or in refusal to let some people register?

Several news organizations report enormous increases in voter registration across the country, but they are only guessing at who stands to benefit.

Official state-by-state results aren't yet available, and won't be for 10 to 20 days after registration closes in the various states, according to Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate

In some states, including battleground states, the deadline has just passed or is about to pass, meaning that detailed figures should be available starting around Oct. 14th, if Gans, a leading authority on voting, is correct.

Why such a lag between close of registration and the release of official figures in this computerized age? Gans says elections officials must first check new voters' bona fides, which takes time. Also, he points out, not all areas are totally computerized as yet.

It seems to us, however, that reporters and editors should start asking for results as soon as registration deadlines fall. This is a very important story, and some voting officials may be ready and forthcoming earlier than others.

In fact, reporters should look for two stories here: one on how party affiliation shakes out, and one on what Gans calls the bona fides. How many people who tried to register are being disallowed? And is there fraud going on, either in the registration attempts or in the refusals?

The Vanishing Voters project, run by Prof. Thomas Patterson at Harvard's Kennedy School, lists voter registration deadlines in each state.

Recent stories by the New York Times and other news organizations suggest that increases in registration are enormous in many places, that both parties have made gains but that Democrats stand to be the big winners. Until now, however, these stories have been based on reports from Democratic and Republican party organizers.

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