Did the George Floyd Protests Boost Democratic Voter Registration?

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Rock the Vote, the country’s first online voter registration platform, saw one of the biggest surges in years in early June, with more than 100,000 people registering in one week.

“That first week of June, as of that date, that was the largest voter registration week for Rock the Vote, including deadline-driven primaries, and there were no major deadlines going on,” said Carolyn DeWitt, the president of Rock the Vote.

Earlier this year, surges in voter registration for Democrats came during the contested stages of the Democratic primary, one of the largest drivers of early, pre-fall voter registration. But the primary contest was essentially settled by early April, around the time the pandemic began to depress registration nationwide, close motor vehicle departments and keep registration canvassers confined to their living rooms instead of a voter’s doorway.

The return of pre-pandemic-level voter registration in some major states, like Michigan and Minnesota, signaled that the protests played a factor.

“Right when the protests started, it’s as if a light switch got flipped on,” Andy Bernstein, the executive director of Headcount, a nonpartisan voter registration organization, said. In June, registrations by Headcount grew more than 10 times compared with the previous month and more than 10 times compared with June 2016.

The uptick in Democratic voting registration across swing states did not always result in an overall monthly increase in June: Neither Georgia nor Pennsylvania saw a net rise in monthly registrations. And TargetSmart has not yet received every state’s registration records for June.

“It doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen in every state and every community,” Tom Bonier, the chief executive of TargetSmart, said. But he said the data was noteworthy because it shows how widespread the phenomenon was. “It’s happening in red states and blue states and purple states.”

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