August was voter purge month, when the Secretary of State knocks voters who haven’t showed up at the polls recently from “Active” to “Inactive.” The September 1, 2017, South Dakota voter registration tally shows 11,762 voters—2.14% of the August 1 total—removed from Active status and 11,450 newly Inactive voters. This one-month purge restocks the Inactive pool, which the Secretary of State has whittled down over the last 18 months from a March 2016 peak of 54,708 to an August 2017 low of 30,619. Inactives now total 42,069.
The total number of voters on the books, Active + Inactive, actually increased from the general election through June 2017 from 595,126 to 597,856, thanks to increased voter registration. That total is now back down to 579,544. Thus, in three months, the Secretary of State managed to scrub 3.06% of the names on the voter rolls.
Looking just at Active voters and using the 2.14% August purge rate as the baseline, Democrats got purged harder than Republicans:
|Party||9/1/2017||change since Aug 1||change since 2016 general election||change since Dem peak Jul 2009|
I have no more detailed data upon which to make conclusions, but the greater drop for Democrats in the August purge may be explained by these hypotheses:
- Not voting: With a lack of competitive candidates, Democrats have been more likely to sit out elections over the last four years than Republicans and independents; thus, Democrats have fallen onto the Inactive list or off the rolls completely at a higher rate.
- Not sticking with the party: Perhaps South Dakota Democrats have seen Donald Trump’s common-sense- and Christianity-defying 57% approval rate in our fair state and changed their registration to keep from getting their houses egged.
- Not sticking with the state: People are more likely to move if they feel their political beliefs don’t fit with their neighbors. Outnumbered now almost 3 to 2 statewide, Democrats are more likely to leave South Dakota than Republicans.
- Not in charge of the purge: The Secretary of State is a Republican running for Congress. When she pulls up the list of voters whom the state hasn’t heard from for a while, it wouldn’t be hard to sort that list by party and start with the Democrats first.
Those are all maybes, not for-sures. And the truth of one or more of those maybes doesn’t change what Democrats need to do: run good candidates on good issues for every office on every ballot (including a real election hawk for Secretary of State) to motivate more South Dakotans to register and vote Democratic.