Wednesday, November 12, 2003

In today's WaPo, Harold Meyerson analyzes the results of the recent Philly mayor's race. He claims that John Street's victory resulted, in part, from a massive voter registration drive among Philly's minority community. Among other claims, Meyerson states that Congressman Chaka Fattah registered 86,000 new voters in the last 3 months and that efforts are underway to register another 85,000 by next November.

I looked into this a bit more and I think Meyerson is grasping at straws. First, there's no way that Fattah registered 86,000 new voters in the last three months. In May 2003, there were about 912,000 registered voters in Philly. By November, that had only risen to 958,000, an increase of only 46,000 voters. Of those 46,000, only about 34,000 were registered Dems. This is an increase over May, but the number of registered Democrats in the city is the lowest since 1998 and 40,000 fewer than in November 2000.

As for registering an additional 85,000 voters in the coming year, well, that's a tall order. Right now, about 86% of the city's voting age population is registered. Adding another 85,000 voters would raise that to 93%. Given that some portion of the voting age population population either can't register (because of non-citizen status, criminal convictions, mental incompetence, etc.) or won't register, I'd guess that 93% would represent about 100% (perhaps more) of those willing and eligible to register.

Today, even with these voter registration efforts, Philadelphia's Democrats make up 9.4% of Pennsylvania's voters. That's down from 9.8% in 2000. Even if they can add an additional 85,000 voters, and all of them are Democrats (both dubious propositions), that would only make Philadelphia's Democrat's 10.5% of the electorate. That would help the Democrats, but it's nothing that fundamentally changes either Pennsylvania or national politics.

Finally, let's say the Democrat's sweep Pennsylvania in 2004 as a result of these efforts. So what? Gore won the state in 2000 and he still lost the election. What are Democrats doing in states that Gore lost, such as Kentucky, to bring them into the D column? Furthermore, due to population changes Pennsylvania lost 2 electoral votes and overall, Gore's 267 electoral votes in 2000 will only be 260 electoral votes in 2004.

Where does Meyerson propose getting those extra states?

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