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Vote Baby, Vote

As you wait for polls to close in Indiana and North Carolina, why not ponder the side effects of this long, long Democratic primary contest?

While party leaders know an ugly floor fight at the convention in Denver is a thing to avoid, they’ve put a positive gloss on the voter registration, organization and turnout that the campaigns have seen across the country so far.

Happily, the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute has checked out voter registration records, and offers a new report that helps make that case. Among its findings:

* 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 wide-open 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.

For the full report, go here (PDF).

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