A silver lining to a prolonged nomination process?

Voter registration is way up in six of the eight states yet to hold Democratic primaries.

Published April 7, 2008 2:40PM (EDT)

A silver lining to a prolonged Democratic process? A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post noted a possible silver lining to the Democrats' longer-than-expected fight for the nomination: a boost in the number of registered Democratic voters, spurred by an exciting primary fight. Pennsylvania's Department of State noted, for example, that Dems have now topped 4 million registered voters, "the first time either party in the state has crossed that threshold." USA Today notes a similar trend this morning in most of the states hosting upcoming Democratic contests.

Nominating a Democratic presidential candidate has become a marathon, but primary voters are going the distance: Voter registration is surging in six of the eight states with upcoming Democratic primaries -- a sign that turnout could continue to break records.

The hard-fought Democratic nomination contest between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is making every primary critical. As a result, the late-voting states of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and Oregon have seen a boost in voter registration, state officials say.

Oregon, for example, saw 28,000 new voters register in January and February, and expects 25,000 more before the end of the month. In North Carolina, 165,449 new voters have registered since Jan. 1, and three-quarters of them are eligible to vote in the May 6 Democratic primary. Some states are seeing voters switch registration just so they can weigh in on the Clinton-Obama competition.

Finally, a silver lining to a prolonged and awkward intraparty fight? Maybe, but not necessarily.

Jonathan Chait argues today that these new voters were very likely to participate in the general election anyway. Moreover, Noam Scheiber recently noted that if there were already a Democratic nominee, he or she would "already be organizing a lot of states for the general. And all the evidence suggests he or she would be having a lot of success registering people as Democrats."

To be sure, the registration numbers are encouraging, but with regard to keeping the race for the Democratic nomination going, it's probably not a compelling reason in and of itself.

By Steve Benen

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