(This is a special pre-Thanksgiving edition of Granite Reports.)
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 26: LOOK WHERE THE NEW VOTERS CAME FROM. Republicans and Democrats both did a decent job in the last election turning out the vote. The turnout was, after all, a record by far for a New Hampshire midterm election (see our item below).
But our analysis of the turnout provides a clue as to why – from a get-out-the-vote perspective — the Democrats staved off the national GOP wave, at least at the top of the ticket. The answer seems to lie in where the same day registrants came from.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New Hampshire is among 12 states (in addition to the District of Columbia) with same day voting registration.
New Hampshire this year saw 33,393 people register to vote on Election Day, exceeding the expectations of some campaigns.
Four years ago, there were only 23,512 same-day registrants, and in the prior midterm, 2006, there were 25,796.
(These numbers are dwarfed by presidential election years. In 2012, there were 99,299 same-day registrants and in 2008, there were 76,755.)
But where did these same-day registrants come from? Larger numbers of same day registrants, as a percentage of the overall number of registered voters, came from cities and college communities – in other words, Democratic strongholds.
Statewide, there were 894,568 names on the checklist as of Nov. 4, and there were 33,393 same-day registrants. That means 3.7 percent of those who are currently registered to vote signed up on Election Day.
On a county-by-county basis, Strafford County had the highest percentage of same-day registrants, 5.2 percent. Grafton County was second at 4.2 percent, followed by Merrimack County at 4.1 percent, Cheshire at 3.8 percent, Hillsborough County at 3.7 percent, Belknap at 3.4 percent, Rockingham at 3.2 percent, Sullivan at 2.9 percent, Coos at 2.6 percent and Carroll County at 2.3 percent.
Compare those county percentages and the statewide percentage of same-day registrants to these college town percentages: Durham, the home of UNH, 9.35 percent; Hanover, the home of Dartmouth College, 8.7 percent and Plymouth, home of Plymouth State University, 6.1 percent.
Now for some of the same-day registration percentages in a sampling of larger, highly Democratic cities: Dover, 6.3 percent; Portsmouth, 6.2 percent; Keene, 6 percent; Manchester, 5.9 percent; Concord, 5.6 percent; and Nashua, 4.25 percent.
By comparison, here are the percentages of same-day registrations in a sampling of large GOP stronghold towns in the southern tier: Hooksett, 3.8 percent; Goffstown, 3.5 percent; Derry, 2.8 percent; Bedford, 2.7 percent; Amherst, 2.5 percent; Merrimack, 2.5 percent; Windham, 2.4 percent; Salem, 1.98 percent; Pelham, 1.94 percent; and Hudson. 1.9 percent.
If the same day registration percentage in all of these 10 communities, rather than just one, had reached the statewide average of 3.7 percent, what would have been the results at the top of the ticket?
The answer seems clear: Republicans would have been celebrating far more than flipping the New Hampshire House and the Executive Council.
We’re just sayin’.
THE OVERALL NUMBERS. Yes, the official turnout numbers are in, and with all due respect to Secretary of State Bill Gardner, he underestimated. Gardner predicted 464,000 Granite Staters would turn out for the Nov. 6 midterm elections, slightly more than the midterm record of 461,000 in 2010.
The record was blown away.
Official figures from Gardner’s office show turnout was 495,565 or slightly more than 55 percent of the 894,568 names on the checklist.
And in this election, Republicans widened their lead in voter registration over Democrats. There are now 271,561 registered Republicans, 239,166 registered Democrats and, as usual, far more undeclared, or independent voters – 383,841.
Independents are the largest voting blocs in every county, while Republicans outnumber Democrats in six of the 10 counties and Democrats outnumber GOP voters in four.
By comparison, two years ago, a presidential election year, general election turnout was 718,700 voters of 905,957 names on the checklist, or more than 79 percent. The huge disparity between a presidential and a midterm election is common. At that time, there were 381,924 undeclared voters, 273,675 Republicans and 250,358. Yet Democrats dominated from top to bottom on the ticket.
And in the previous midterm of 2010, turnout was 461,423 ballots cast out of 945,341 names on the checklist (this was prior to the 2011 purge of duplicate names that resulted in 11,000 fewer names), or 49 percent. That year, there were 395,733 undeclared voters on the checklist, 278,782 Republicans and 270,826 Democrats.
Gardner said turnout was 452,000 in 2002, which was a major Republican year, and then 417,000 in 2006, when Democrats scored major victories.
IAN MOVES UP. Speaking of young Democrats, Ian Moskowitz will begin his new post on Monday as political director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
Moskowitz will focus on organizing and supporting party city, town and county committees, preparations for the state party’s upcoming state convention and working with party executive committee and state committee members.
He most recently was the campaign manager for both state Sen. David Watter’s successful reelection effort in District 6 and Maureen Raiche Manning’s unsuccessful campaign in District 16.
Moskowitz previously was a special assistant to New York City Council member Annabel Palma and in 2012, was a staffer on the unsuccessful congressional campaign of Mark Murphy in New York.
THE NHDP RECORD. In a recent memo, state Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley told grassroots activists that while the party “suffered some heartbreaking losses in 2014, they pale by comparison to the devastation that occurred across the nation.”
He noted that Democrats have won five of the past six presidential elections in New Hampshire, nine of the last 10 elections for governor, two of the last three U.S. Senate elections, seven of the last 10 congressional elections, and majorities on the Executive Council in three of the last five elections (though not this year).
He reported that Democrats have won an average of 11 state Senate seats in the past five elections and state House majorities in three of the last five elections.
“This past decade has been the most successful decade New Hampshire Democrats have had since the Civil War,” Buckley wrote. “Conversely, it has been the worst decade in the history of the New Hampshire Republican Party.”
A NEW FACE. Last week, we reported that young Bedford businessman Shawn O’Connor was drawing interest from key Democrats as a potential candidate for statewide office. We included his name in a list of potential candidates for various office in 2016, based on our outreach to party activists.
That report has developed some proverbial legs. And O’Connor is indeed viewed as a potential bright young Democratic star. But sources close to him say there is no imminent O’Connor candidacy, and he has no desire to take on Gov. Maggie Hassan in a Democratic Senate primary, should she decide to run.
O’Connor, who is founder and CEO of the test preparation and admissions counseling firm StratusPrep, which expanded from New York to Bedford nearly two years ago, has been approached by some Democrats encouraging him to consider running for office at some point. But we’re told he has initiated no discussions about a Senate run.
Still, the speculation about a Senate run by O’Connor certainly set off some Republicans, who saw irony in a New York transplant purportedly eyeing high office.
“Apparently New Hampshire Democrats have gotten over their hangups about ‘carpetbaggers,’” said Patrick Hynes, who heads Independent Leadership for New Hampshire, a pro-Republican SuperPAC, and who is a former co-owner of the New Hampshire Journal.
“After spending millions in outside money to smear Scott Brown – who practically grew up in Rye – the first Democrat to emerge as a potential U.S. Senate candidate is a New Yorker who just moved to New Hampshire himself. What a bunch of hypocrites,” Hynes said.
Added former NHGOP Chairman Fergus Cullen: “I’m sure all the New Hampshire Dems who spent a year calling Brown a carpetbagger will have the integrity to say same about Shawn O’Connor.”
(John DiStaso is news editor of the New Hampshire Journal and the most experienced political reporter/columnist in New Hampshire. He has been reporting on Granite State politics since 1982. Watch for updates of his Granite Reports column and of course separate stories on NHJournal.com as news breaks. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)