Voter Stats: Every Party Loses in July Except Libertarians!

Who’s the only South Dakota political party that grew in July? The Libertarians!

Party Change July 5 to August 1
GOP -0.29%
Dem -0.49%
NPA/Ind -0.10%
Const -0.61%
Lib 0.47%
Other -0.36%
Total -0.31%
Inactive -14.62%
Hey, Libertarians! Smokey's advice applies to government, not your political party. Keep digging!
Hey, Libs! (‘Berts?) Smokey’s advice applies to government, not your political party. Keep digging!

According to the Secretary of State’s latest voter registration report, from July 5 to August 1, the Libertarian Party of South Dakota continued its steady year-long march toward outnumbering Webster by adding eight new registered voters (possibly all at their Sioux Falls convention weekend before last) and raising its statewide membership to 1,701.

The Libertarians, Constitutionists, and Others together still make up only 0.55% of the registered electorate. Republicans make up 46.21% of the registered electorate. Democrats have sunk to 30.63%. Independents have risen to 22.60%.

Since their peak in July 2009 (you know, the good old day, when we had a couple of courageous members of Congress and a knowledgeable, articulate President), South Dakota Democrats have lost 37,829 registered voters, a decline of 18.36%. Over the same eight years, the number of independent voters has increased by 37,830, a gain of 43.83%. (Be careful: in 2009, SOS Nelson reported indies and other non-GOP/Dems all in one column, so the comparison is not perfect.) Since July 2009, South Dakota Republicans have added 11,045 to their rolls, while the number of active registered voters has increased by 12,649.

12 Responses to Voter Stats: Every Party Loses in July Except Libertarians!

  1. Ben Cerwinske

    With numbers almost matching, is it reasonable to believe voters left the Democratic party and simply went independent? Is it then reasonable to believe those voters will be very much in play in 2018?

  2. Those closely aligned numbers certainly lead to that conclusion… although it’s also useful to note we’re not talking a direct swap. I’m willing to bet more Democrats have dropped out of the voting pool (given up, emigrated, died) and more new voters have chosen Indy.

    Whether they are recyclable Dems or never engaged indies, we should always view those voters as “in play” in every election.

  3. Miranda Gohn

    Years ago I had always been a registered Democrat voting. Prior to leaving South Dakota the last time I was a registered Republican so I would have more say in who would win in the Republican primaries.

    Moving to Minnesota a voter does not register as a member of a political party but I was active in my local Greater Minnesota DFL unit and was an alternative delegate voting for party officers in January and spent from May thru Nov door knocking for two moderate DFL legislative candidates one being a former Republican and 14 year county commissioner that had incredible policy experience and co-founded a public option health insurance entity for rural Minnesota counties and was so successful it has been used in other states. She was the real deal! The other candidate was a former legislator from the mid 90s and a sustainable Dairy Farmer who was just starting to turn over his operation to his sons. He is running again. One of the best learning experiences I ever had and it was fun! That senate district is large!

    Returning back to South Dakota the SDDP has gone so far left with it fast gaining a reputation as being the “Party of Pot” which is a total turn off for me and it is continuing to lose relevance though there are some really good members, candidates and elected officials within the state party that I really respect and can politically align with. I am more into common sense bread and butter issues that affect everyday South Dakotans. Registering for a political party creates a dilemma at least for the short term. Republican once again to have a greater say in the primaries or join the growing number of independent/unaffiliated voters.

  4. Gohn once again peddles her pet marketing scheme, trying to brand the South Dakota Democratic Party as the “Party of Pot.” I see no evidence beyond Gohn’s assertion that the party is “fast gaining” any such reputation. More importantly, I see no evidence that her propagandistic assertion has any connection to voter registration trends. A recent nationwide survey finds equal support for marijuana legalization (63%) among Democrats and independents. It thus seems more likely that the big increase in independent voters includes a lot of pro-pot voters than that the decline in Dem registration has anything to do with marijuana politics.

  5. Miranda Gohn

    Meanwhile the SDDP continues it’s annual slide with less and less registered Democrats each month. How is that a good thing Cory? What would you attribute that to? The numbers are not there in the legislature and elected offices in the state and the statewide SDDP candidates are keeping a healthy safe distance away from the SDDP brand that has become damaging. It was supposed to be the main opposition party in the state to bring checks and balances to state government.

    Perhaps the party may wish to have “Back to Basics” seminars for some of these Hard Leftys and the pot enthusiasts like “How to get along with others” and “Before we promote a policy or ballot initiative what will be the real world consequences” to benefit members and future candidates.

    Tim Bjorkamn is the only SDDP candidate I have offered to volunteer for.

  6. I do not dispute that the SDDP is in tough shape. I do not dispute the party has to work hard to regain tens of thousands of voters who were ours during the Daschle/Johnson/Herseth terms. I still see no evidence to support your trivial projection of your personal and incorrect “Party of Pot” perception.

  7. Thanks again, for checking comments like Gohrin’s against other more reliable sources. You are appreciated!

  8. Miranda Gohn


    You still have not answered my question. What would you attribute that to? You know the SDDP month by month slide into irrelevancy that has gone on for years? If you have no idea by all means keep doing what you are doing. There is an opportunity for some other group or party to step up and compete as a non-fringe opposition party here in South Dakota while the SDDP sinks to fringe party status.

  9. Sure, if you’re dropping your false marketing scheme, I’ll lay out (again, as I’m sure I have in a variety of past posts) why Democratic registration numbers are down. These hypotheses are in no particular order.

    1. SD Dems have become paralyzed by their own fear, afraid to own and defend their brand and their principles, choosing instead to tack toward some illusory middle. Offer voters Bud Light, and most of them will opt for Bud.
    2. Past successful Dem candidates built successful individual campaign machines but did not expand that work to build a similarly successful party machine.
    3. Alternative interpretation of the above: SD Dems coasted on the strength of their successful candidates and didn’t focus enough on building a complementary campaign machine that would help other candidates after those stars passed.
    4. The generation of rural McGovern/Farmers Union Dems has died off, tired out, migrated away, or been consolidated out of existence. The surviving rural base, consisting of a larger proportion of big operators and landloards more closely tied to Monsanto and the Farm Bureau, leans more toward corporate/Chamber/ALEC interests.
    5. Dems haven’t learned yet how to pivot from what’s left of their rural base (see Lars Herseth’s comments at last week’s Aberdeen Front Porch event)) and expand to include (not either-or, but both-and) South Dakota’s new urbanites, the office workers clustered in the financial/insurance/health care cube farms in the Minne-Linc metro and other smaller upcrops.
    6. A sizable majority of South Dakota hates Obama. We have yet to recover.
    7. SDDP dropped reservation recruitment and GOTV efforts.
    8. SDGOP has been far more willing to use dirty personal tactics to win. SD Dems morals have kept them from hitting GOP candidates as hard as they could.
    9. ALEC and the Koch Brothers have done a far better job of focusing on capturing state-level offices than have special interests backing liberals.
    10. The Obama/Clinton DNC ignored South Dakota (not to mention state-level races), boosting the self-fulfilling prophecy that we are a lost cause.
    11. Bernie voters haven’t translated their enthusiasm for the Vermont socialist into serious, pragmatic engagement in local issues and downticket races. (Likewise, SD Dems didn’t do enough to engage those Bernie Democrats. Takes two to tango; both need to quit grousing about the past and dance.)
    12. SD Dems are far too bogged down in decades-old internecine grievances to focus on the practical business of winning elections.

    That should be enough alt-causes to demonstrate that pot politics is trivial at best in terms of figuring out our poor voter-registration and electoral performance.

  10. Jake, you’re welcome. But if you hear or read any reliable sources saying that (1) SDDP has thrown in solidly and vocally behind marijuana legalization and (2) significant numbers of voters have changed their registrations because of that stance, let me know, and I’ll report it!

  11. To answer the question of whether or not the surge in the number of Independent voters is driven by voters who previously would have registered Democratic, I referred to the cross tabs of Nielson Brothers Polling’s 2016 general election tracking poll. 16% of their respondents identified themselves as Independent. Of this 16%, 39% identified themselves as either Conservative or Tea Party, while 61% identified as either Liberal or Moderate. The poll didn’t ask Independents which party they leaned toward but these proxy categories (Conservative/Tea Party = Republican and Moderate/Liberal = Democrat) approximate the rule of thumb I have used in the past, namely that independents break 60-40 Democratic when forced to make a choice but that they are stubbornly disengaged from politics and would rather not make any choice at all.

  12. Interesting numbers, Sheldon. That stubborn disengagement is a tough hill to get over. I’d love to get some data that would allow us to distinguish the disillusioned Democrats who have switched to independent registration but could be brought back to engage with the party from the independents who are there because of a genuine disinterest in politics and making choices. Ideally, we Democrats should present a platform and candidates so compelling that everyone will want to engage and vote our way. Practically, we could benefit from data that would let us first target the easy gets in the Indy pool, then, if we have time and money, expend resources trying to engage the chronically disengaged.