Democratic registration surges in New Jersey — now 860,000 above GOP
New Jersey has taken on a deeper shade of blue heading into Tuesday's election.
Both parties enter Election Day with their highest-ever levels of registered members – 2,073,739 for the Democrats, 1,211,392 for the Republicans, according to voter registration data published Monday by the state Division of Elections.
But Democrats have padded their registration advantage, both in numbers and share. Republicans account for 20.8 percent of registered voters, tied with the 2008 primary for the party’s high-water mark. Democrats now have 35.6 percent, topping the record 34 percent they had in June 2008.
Rider University political scientist Ben Dworkin said the numbers aren’t a surprise.
“This is not unexpected. Demographics tell us that the state has become more diverse, and the Democratic Party to date has done better at reaching out to these new communities, emerging majority communities,” Dworkin said. “I think these numbers sort of play into what we’ve already been expecting and have been talking about.”
Compared with a year ago, the number of Democrats is up by 325,000 and the number of Republicans up 153,000. There are now around 860,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, up from an average edge of around 703,000 over the last eight years.
Democrats added more registrants over the last year than Republicans did in 18 of New Jersey’s 21 counties — all except for Ocean, Salem and Warren counties.
Dworkin noted that the still-large number of unaffiliated voters – even at 43 percent, its lowest level on record – masks how much New Jersey leans toward Democrats.
“These people are not independent,” Dworkin said. “Overwhelmingly, they favor one party or the other. But they just haven’t bothered to register officially with one party, which means they don’t get to vote in primary elections in June.”
Democratic registration has grown 16 percent since before the primary, while the number of Republicans is up by 11 percent.
That includes people who were already registered to vote who joined the party in order to vote in its primary. The growth since the end of June has been 9 percent for the Democrats and 6 percent for the Republicans.
More New Jersey residents have registered as Democrats than Republicans in each of the last eight months, with the biggest separation coming in June and July. In those two months alone, Democrats increased their voter registration advantage by nearly 108,000.
In August, the number of registered Democrats surpassed 2 million for the first time.
Overall, the number of people registered to vote in New Jersey increased by around 400,000 in the past year – sort of an average growth rate, compared with past presidential elections.
The 7.5 percent growth rate, bringing the number of registered voters to around 5.8 million, is higher than the 5.6 percent growth of 2012 or the 5.8 percent growth in 2000. However, it’s below the double-digit growth in voter rolls seen in between – 10.2 percent in 2004 and 11.6 percent in 2008.
The number of people registered with minor parties continues its strong climb.
A year ago, slightly under 0.1 percent of voters were registered with third parties, around 4,800. That has more than tripled to over 17,000 – though still accounts for just 0.3 percent of voters.
“I think the biggest reason that we see growth in registration for third parties is the dysfunction in Washington. It is unprecedented what’s going on, or rather what’s not going on in Washington, D.C., especially with Congress and the fighting that goes on between the House and the Senate and the White House,” Dworkin said.
“The inability to get things done leads people to look for additional options because they think the current system isn’t working. And I think this why we see the rise of populist candidates like Trump and even Bernie Sanders, but it’s also why options like Libertarian Party and Green Party and others become more realistic for people who are so utterly frustrated with the system as it currently works – or in this case, isn’t working,” he said.
The Libertarian Party is New Jersey’s largest third party, with close to 5,400 registered voters.
The Conservative Party has grown five-fold in the last year, to almost 3,500 members.
The Green Party has expanded by 143 percent in the last year to more than 3,000 registrants.
The U.S. Constitution Party has experienced staggering growth, from 174 at the time of last year’s general election to more than 2,600 registered voters.
The Socialist Party has seen even faster growth, in percentage terms. The party wasn’t recognized in New Jersey until 2014 and had only 25 members a year ago, but it now has 1,271 registered voters.
The Natural Law Party, which was founded in 1992, dissolved nationally in 2004 and appears to no longer operate in New Jersey, inexplicably grew from 37 registered voters a year ago to nearly 1,100.
The smallest of the minor parties in the state is the Reform Party, which has grown six-fold over the past year to 371 registered voters.