The 2008 contests for the Republican and Democratic Party presidential nominations have been
a boon for American democracy. The intense competition for nomination combined with
investments in mobilizing voters for primaries and caucuses has fuelled an historic surge in
voter registration compared to its level during the 2004 nomination contests. A study of
official voter registration records reveals the following:
• Record voter registration was produced in 43 out of the 44 states for which there are
official data during comparable periods in 2004 and 2008.
• North Carolina registration in April 2008 is 14 percent higher than in the
comparable period in 2004 and Indiana is up 20 percent. The unusually wideopen
competition for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations has
fuelled this remarkable jump in voter participation.
• About a quarter of the new voter registration records were set in purple states,
perhaps altering the electoral landscape in these states since 2004.
• Although Democrats fear that the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton
may weaken their Party’s chances in November by alienating some voters, it may also
have helped by increasing voter registration. Seventeen of the 43 states set records
during primaries or caucuses that were held after Super Tuesday when the Republican
contest largely came to an end. These voters may be a new and important pool of
voters for Democratic candidates to recruit in November, offsetting perhaps voters that
they lose because of lingering ill will.
Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Lawrence, Jacobs; Burns, Melanie.
The Big Mobilization: Increased Voter Registration in 2008.
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