Do the math: New voters may translate into an Obama victory

In some ways, Nevada is a microcosm for many of the key electoral battlegrounds. The state went narrowly for George Bush in both 2000 and 2004. But like other battleground states like Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina, Democrats have had some success there winning statewide office.

In all of these states, the Obama campaign has embarked on massive voter registration drives. In Nevada, a state that once had a narrow Republican registration advantage, Democrats have registered 100,000 more voters than Republicans since 2004.

Now, Obama is focused on getting those voters to the polls. His campaign stops this week have all been in states where early voting is underway, and his campaign message in those states is to urge supporters to vote early.

We have used some “fuzzy math” to try to illustrate how important those voters are to the Obama campaign, and how his success in getting new voters to the polls may ultimately determine the next President of the United States.

To compute these models, we’ve used turn-out figures from 2004.  We took the total votes for Sen. John Kerry, and computed them as a percentage of the total Democratic and decline-to-state registration. We computed President Bush’s vote total as a percentage of the combined Republican and DTS registration.

Then, making lots of mathematical and political assumptions, we plugged those numbers in to the 2008 registration numbers to show how new voter registration could impact the state of Nevada, if the new voters turn out in the same number as Silver State voters in 2004.

So, for example, in 2004, John Kerry received 397,190 votes statewide. In 2004, there were 429,808 Democrats and 161,620 decline-to-state voters, or 591,428 combined. So, Kerry’s vote total was 67.2 percent of the total Democrat and DTS combined registration.
George Bush received 418,690 votes in Nevada in 2008. In 2004, the combined GOP and DTS registration was 595,859. So Bush received 70.3 percent of the total GOP and DTS registration.

According to the final 2008 registration numbers, there are now 531, 223 active registered Democrats, 430,432 Republicans and 183,524 decline-to-states. So, assuming that turnout is a similar 77 percent, and using the percentage of the party registration to predict a candidate’s vote total, we can guess at what the Nevada vote totals may be for Obama and McCain.

(According to the Nevada Secretary of State, an active voter is “any registered voter that is legally entitled to vote. This category includes new registrants who have provided all critical eligibility criteria but are missing additional non-critical information from their applications, as well as existing registered voters whose records are being updated or changed.” There are another 230,000 registered voters who may be eligible to vote in this race.)

In 2004, there were 829,587 votes cast from Nevada’s 1,071,101 registered voters – an impressive 77.5 percent. Bob Walsh, a spokesman for the Nevada Secretary of State’s office, says enthusiasm is way up in his state, and while the Secretary of State’s office does not offer an official prediction of voter turn out, Walsh says most experts assume a similar turn-out model for 2008.

Speaking of the state’s newly registered votes, Walsh said, “We’ve been the fastest growing state in the country for a couple of decades. Combine that with the excitement around this election, and that’s what’s going to happen.It’s realistic to expect that the turn out will be equally dramatic in its increase,” Walsh said.

The real question will be, will the new voters registered by the Obama campaign come to the polls? Some quick computations show just how important those new voters are to Obama in Nevada, and across the country.

According to the final numbers of active voters from the Nevada Secretary of State’s office, there are 1,207,423 registered voters in the state. If turn-out is identical to 2004, there would be 935, 753 Nevadans casting ballots in this year’s election.

The combined Democrat and DTS registration is 714,747. If those voters go to the polls in the same numbers as 2004 voters, which is a big “If,” and Obama pulls the same percentage of DTS and Democrat votes that Kerry did, Obama would receive 480,310 votes, or 51.3 percent of the vote.

The combined Republican and DTS registration is 613,956. If we assume that John McCain will get the same percentage of the GOP and DTS vote, that would compute to 431,611 votes, or 46.1 percent of the vote.

Now, admittedly, we are not pollsters, and we’re sure there are dozens of mathematical problems with the experiment we just conducted. But the numbers are meant to illustrate a more important fact that will determine the electoral outcome in Nevada and a handful of other states on Election Day. The Obama campaign has spent months attracting new voters to register in key battleground states. Now, the fate of the presidency may depend on his campaign’s success in getting those voters to the polls.

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