The Real Voter Registration Numbers

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  • The Washington Post recently published a story (“Voter registration down among Hispanics, blacks” May 4th, 2012) that inaccurately claimed that the number of African American and Hispanic registered voters has fallen sharply since 2008; it has not.

    One of the most important successes of the historic 2008 campaign was the Obama-Biden ticket’s ability to expand the electorate—not just with first-time voters, but with eligible voters who for the first time felt they were being heard. Just as they are this time around, the President and Vice President ran four years ago on the belief that we are greater together, and that the more voices there are in the political process, the better we are. After all, the right to vote and choose our leaders is at the heart of what it means to be an American.

    In 2008 we saw participation increase across the board—more young voters, more older voters, more black voters, more Hispanic voters, more white voters. And they realize that voting once isn’t enough; to bring about real and lasting change, we need to stay involved throughout 2012 and vote in November.

    The supporters who make this grassroots campaign what it is understand that principle. Unfortunately, sometimes the media does not.

    The analysis on which the Post based its mistaken claim is fundamentally flawed in several ways. Let’s look at a few of them:

    First, the Census data the article cited is 18 months old—it’s from November 2010, the month of the last midterm elections.Since that time, more than 1.4 million African Americans and more than 1.2 million Latinos have registered to vote.

    Second, it’s misleading to compare May 2012’s voter rolls to November 2010’s, since one refers to a national election for which registration has far from closed, and the other is not. A fair apples-to-apples comparison would look at the same point in a similar election cycle. So let’s do what the Post didn’t: when you compare the number of Latino and African American voters in November 2010 to those in November 2006, or compare the rolls in May 2012 to May 2008, it’s clear that the number goes up, not down, in each case. For example, the Post article claimed that in Florida, the largest battleground state, the number of Latino registrants decreased by 10 percent from Election Day 2008 and Election Day 2010; in reality, it increased by 5 percent. That’s a mistake 15 percentage points wide.

    Third, registration among Latinos and African Americans has never been higher. There are more Americans of both backgrounds registered to vote today than there were when President Obama was elected.

    Republicans who wish The Washington Post’s registration count is accurate will be disappointed by these facts. Registration numbers are rising in spite of GOP legislatures and governors in more than half of the states who have put up onerous hurdles that make it harder for Americans to vote—with the excuse that they’re solving a non-existent epidemic of voter fraud.

    President Obama’s campaign, like his leadership in the White House, is about inclusiveness. Our campaign is working to get as many Americans involved as possible—that’s the spirit of our elections and our nation. We’ve never solved anything with less democracy, and America has always expanded liberty and right, not limited them.

    There are enough forces trying to make it harder, not easier, for your voice to count. We don’t need inaccurate and misleading media reports that fail to count the registered voters who are already out there.

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