Alaska Voter Registration Numbers A Warning Sign For Republicans

New voter registration numbers posted by the Alaska Division of Elections (DOE) show Democrats picking up steam heading into the November 8 general election.

The new data released Monday reflects how many Alaskans registered to vote before the October 9 deadline. It also shows how many of those Alaskan voters chose to affiliate as Republican, Democrat, non-partisan, undeclared, or as a member of one of the minority political parties or groups.

Such breakdowns can shed light on the environment candidates and political parties face during campaign season.

The Alaska Republican Party (ARP) remains dominant in overall voter affiliations. Of the 528,650 registered voters in Alaska, 143,568 or 27.1% chose to register as Republicans. That is almost twice the number that chose to be a part of the Alaska Democratic Party (ADP), 78,519 or 14.9%. Of course, both of those totals are dwarfed by the number of Alaskans choosing to affiliate with no political party (U and N) at 278,334 or 52.6%.

On the surface, those numbers may seem like good news for Republicans, but it isn’t, at least not entirely. While Republicans maintained the exact same 27.1% of the voter base as they had during the last presidential election cycle in 2012, Democrats moved up from 14.4% to 14.9%.

The trends are even better for Democrats when you compare voter registration this year to the same point in the 2014 election cycle. Democrats had fallen to 13.8% affiliation that year, but have since picked up 1.1% to get up to their current 14.9% of voters.

This data also appears to show far greater voter enthusiasm on the Democrat side for this cycle. 

If we compare the voter registrations from before the ARP’s presidential preference poll and the ADP’s presidential caucuses in March, events that generally spike partisan voter affiliation because affiliation is a requirement for people to participate, to the numbers now, we can get a good sense of which party’s base is more energized.

In DOE’s February registration numbers Democrats had 70,596 (13.75%) affiliations and Republicans had 136,229 (26.5%). Comparing that to post registration deadline figures we see that Republicans added 7,340  new members, but the Democrats added 7,923. That means the Democrats out-registered the far larger Republican base by 538 voters.

That may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Democrats registered 7.3% more new members than did Republicans, but the ARP is about twice the size of the ADP. This means the Democrat base, relative to their party’s size, is demonstrating slightly over twice the enthusiasm of their Republican counterparts.

These numbers then suggest that in addition to having a smaller numerical gap to make up at the polls, Democrats will likely turn out in higher numbers compared to their Republican brethren, further negating the Republican registration advantage.

Impact In East Anchorage

Two races this trend could be a substantial factor in are the Senate Seat N race between Vince Beltrami (I) and incumbent Sen. Cathy Giessel (R) and its down-ballot counterpart, the House District 27 race between incumbent Rep. Lance Pruitt (R) and former Rep. Harry Crawford (D).

District 27

Harry Crawford

Harry Crawford

Rep. Lance Pruitt

Rep. Lance Pruitt

In the last presidential election cycle, Pruitt faced a serious challenger in Rep. Pete Petersen, who he beat by 223 votes. That year there were 3,732 Republicans in the district (27.4%) of voters and 2,338 Democrats (17.1%). Since then, Democrats have increased their ranks in the district by 164 voters to now stand at 18%. Republicans, on the other hand, have lost 95 voters to now sit at 26.2%. That is a net increase for Democrats of 259 voters.

Pruitt won by 223 four years ago, but has suffered a net loss of 259 votes worth of base support. That suggests that a race that was close four years ago should be on a razor’s edge this time around.

Senate Seat N

Four years ago Giessel’s senate district looked very different than it does this year. Back then, after the first bout of redistricting, but before the legal challenges that reshaped things, Giessel’s Hillside/Girdwood district, where she resides, was paired with Rep. Mike Chenault’s conservative North Kenai house district. Now she is paired with Rep. Lance Pruitt’s very moderate East Anchorage district.

Vince Beltrami

Vince Beltrami

Sen. Cathy Giessel

Sen. Cathy Giessel

Because of all of those changes, we can’t compare how Giessel did in the exact same area in the last presidential cycle. But because of the inequities of redistricting that have forced Giessel to run for her senate seat every two years, instead of every four like most senators, we can see how her district has changed since she last ran in 2014.

At this point In 2014, Geisel’s district had 8,314 registered Republicans (28.9%) and 4,164 Democrats (14.4%). Today those numbers stand at 8,580 Republicans (29.0%) and 4,776 Democrats (16.1%). That is a net increase of 346 voters for Democrats.

Giessel won that 2014 race by a comfortable 1,719 vote margin, so a loss of 346 voters from her base isn’t a killer, but it sure widens Beltrami’s path to victory.

About the Author

Casey Reynolds
Reynolds served as communications director for the Alaska Republican Party from 2008-2011. He left the Party in 2011 to host his own popular morning radio political talk show on AM750 / FM103.7 KFQD. Reynolds now runs The Midnight Sun (midnightsunak.com), crowned by the Anchorage Press as “Alaska’s best political blog.”