Let’s take a deeper dive into new registered voters in Broward County, Florida. According to a story in the New York Times by
@tackettdc & @rachel_shorey, young people are registering. It’s hard to tell from their graphic (below) whether the total new registered voters in Broward in the month of March is 3,416 (628 + 626 + 1575 + 587) or if the figures are for just 18-25 yr olds newly registering to vote in the county.
But what do these new registration figures mean?
Here are the comparable March 2014 new registrations in Broward County (that I’ve drawn from a June 2014 statewide voter file). In March 2014 in Broward, there were 9,853 new registrations, more than twice as many my figures indicate were recorded in March 2018. Of those in March 2014, 2,972 (30%) were 18-25 yrs old (as of June 6, 2014).
So, compared to four years earlier, a higher percentage of new registrants in Broward in March 2018 are aged 18-25, but that’s because half as many people registered in March 2018 compared to March 2014 in the county. In March 2014, nearly 1,000 more 18-25 year olds than in March 2018.
Of course, there’s always some slippage when dealing with voter files. My snapshot for 2014 is from early June; it’s certainly possible that some individuals who registered in March 2104 and who were living in one of the state’s other 66 counties moved to Broward in April or May, upping Broward’s June count. It also appears that the March 2014 count of new registrations in the statewide voter file includes thousands of “pre-registrants,” that is, individuals who were 16 or 17 years old who registered to vote that March. Those individuals don’t appear in the March 2018 statewide voter file.
What about the partisan breakdown of younger registrants across the four year time span?
Surprising no one, in Broward County this past March 2018, of the more than 1,800 newly registered voters 18-21 years old, 48% registered as Democrats, 37% as NPAs, and 12% as Republicans.
Statewide in Florida, in March 2018 some 10k 18-21 year olds newly registered to vote. Roughly 38% are Ds, 19% are Rs, and 40% are NPAs.
For a comparison of new party registrations, statewide in March 2018 there were slightly less than 11k new voters aged 45-64. Of these older, new registrants, 26% Ds, 33% Rs, and 38% NPAs.
None of this is news. Younger voters register to vote. They are more likely to register as Democrats. Older people newly register, too. In substantial numbers. They are more likely to register as Republicans.
So, a couple more comparisons of new registrations in Florida in 2018 versus 2014.
Between January 1 and April 30, 2018, there were a total of roughly 155k new registrations statewide. Of those new registrants, 50.2k are 18-29 year-olds and 44.6k are 45-64 year-olds. Of the 18-29 group, 32% are Ds, 20% are Rs, and 45% are NPAs. Of the 45-64 group, 26% are Ds, 34% are Rs, and 37% NPAs.
Compare these figures with first four months of 2014. Between January 1 and April 30, 2014, there were 166.6k new registrations in the state. Of those, 50.2k were 18-29 years old. Another 22.4k were 45-64 years old. Of the 18-29 group, 28% were Ds, 19% were Rs, and 48% NPAs. Of the 45-64 group, 29% were Ds, 33% were Rs, and 33% were NPA.
One last point about the supposed causal relationship between the uptick in voter registration among younger individuals and Florida and the #Parkland tragedy. The Times reporters write:
In Florida, voters under 26 jumped from less than 20 percent of new registrants in January and February to nearly 30 percent by March, the month of the gun control rallies. That ticked down to about 25 percent in April, as the demonstrations subsided, but registration of young voters remained above the pace set before 17 students and faculty were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
It’s amazing that the exact same pattern existed four years earlier, over the first four months of 2014, when Florida did not have a school massacre and there weren’t mass demonstrations against gun violence and the #NRA.
The percent of total new registrants aged 18-24 statewide in Florida in January and February 2014 was 20.6% and 20.3%, respectively. In March, 2014, the percentage of all voters registering in the state aged 18-24 jumped to 34.5% — even higher than the percentage in 2018 following #Parkland and student mobilization. Then in April, 2014, the 18-24 group’s percentage of new registrants dropped down to 24.6% of all new registrants, which was “above the pace set before…….” You get the picture.
This is really a story of omitted variable bias. There are lots of other reasons why young people register in March — starting with ramped-up voter registration drives by the state’s 67 Supervisors of Elections in High Schools and at community events. Many of the students and other young people in Florida who were understandably and genuinely mobilized to register after the Parkland shootings would have registered anyway at one of these events, just as many of their older brothers and sisters did four years earlier.
In short, it’s still way too early to draw conclusions about the supposed registration effect of #Parkland.
Of course, turnout of younger voters in a midterm election is another issue altogether, but that story will have to wait for another day.