Posted: Oct. 25, 2004; updated: Oct. 28, 2004
DELAWARE DEMOCRATS OUT-REGISTER REPUBLICANS
By Celia Cohen
The final voter-registration figures for the 2004 election are in, and they are better for the Democrats than the Republicans -- almost 10,000 voters better statewide.
From January 1 until the voter rolls closed on Oct. 12, the Democrats increased their ranks by 18,230 voters and the Republicans raised theirs 8,233 voters. The Democratic gains were enough to hike their share of the electorate by 1 percent.
Even worse for the Republicans, they could not even match the number of new voters unaffiliated with either major party. The ranks of "other" voters rose by 9,482 people who had to be self-motivated to register, because neither party makes an effort to get them signed up.
The new numbers underscore the trend that has Delaware leaning increasingly Democratic, shedding its reputation as a swing state equally hospitable to quality candidates from either major party.
It is a trend that first became markedly noticeable in the U.S. Senate race in 2000, when Thomas R. Carper, as a two-term Democratic governor, ousted five-term Republican William V. Roth Jr.
Richard H. Bayard, the delighted Democratic state chairman, called the new registration figures "a blowout."
Terry A. Strine, the Republican state chairman, acknowledged that the numbers put his party down -- but not out. "I would rather we had done 18,000 than 8,000, I'll be honest with you," he said. "What matters is what we actually deliver on Nov. 2."
The figures show that Delaware will have 554,194 voters eligible to go to the polls a week from Tuesday, with 44 percent of them Democratic, 33 percent of them Republican and 23 percent of them others.
At the beginning of the year, there were 518,249 registered voters, divided 43 percent Democratic, 34 percent Republican and 23 percent others. Those percentages were the same for the 2002 election (519,816 registered voters) and the 2000 election (503,614 registered voters.)
The biggest surge was in New Castle County, where there are 13,520 new registered Democrats and 3,321 new registered Republicans. Of the county's 362,367 voters, they split 46 percent Democratic, 30 percent Republican and 24 percent others, making the most populous of the state's three counties its most Democratic.
Both major parties conducted extensive voter-registration drives this year.
The Republicans kicked off their efforts in high style, bringing in Edward W. Gillespie, the party's national chairman, last October. He called on the local leadership to register 7,500 new Republicans as part of a nationwide drive to sign up 3 million voters for the party.
The good news is, the Delaware Republicans exceeded their goal. The bad news is, the Democrats outdid them, even going door to door in Wilmington, Georgetown and Dover to register voters, according to Nicole Majeski, the state Democratic Party's executive director.
Now the question is, how will the parties fare in getting their voters to the polls?
"The Republicans vote a higher percentage of their registrants than Democrats," said Rick Bayard, the Democratic chairman, "and with those numbers, they need to."
2004 VOTER REGISTRATION (with change from Jan. 1 to Oct. 12):