Whoever is running the South Democratic Party has until October to prevent Democrats from sinking to third place in voter registration.
According to the Secretary of State’s August 1 voter registration figures, 303,460 South Dakota voters are registered as Republicans, 150,918 are registered as Democrats, 150,109 are registered as independent or without party affiliation (which are effectively the same thing, since “independent” is not a political party, so why in July did Secretary of State Monae Johnson start reporting them separately?), 2,949 Libertarian, and 1,412 other. Republicans thus make up 49.85% of South Dakota’s electorate, Democrats 24.78%, and independents 24.65%.
The number of Republicans surpassed double the number of Democrats for the first time in recent in history in July. At Democrats’ numerical peak in July 2009, there were only 1.18 times as many Republicans as Democrats (242,774 GOP, 206,086 Dem, 86,398 ind).
South Dakota Democratic registration has shrunk by 5.07% over the last four years. Dem numbers are up 0.14% over the last twelve months, but over the last six months (since the election of new party leaders in February), Dem numbers have shrunk 0.35%.
Republican registration has posted four-year growth of 16.15%, twelve-month growth of 4.50%, and six-month growth of 1.39%.
Independent/NPA registration has posted four-year growth of 13.72%, twelve-month growth of 9.30%, and six-month growth of 2.17%.
Converting each of those growth rates to monthly rates and extrapolating, I calculate that independents will outnumber Democrats by October. Even if we use the rosiest number for Democrats, the 0.14% growth rate since August 2022, the independent growth rate over the same period is a far more robust 5.90%, so independents will catch up with and surpass Democrats.
To stay ahead of independents, a group with no one out actively targeting their registration, Democrats need to hit the fairs this month and register a few hundred new Democratic voters. To pull themselves back up to more than half the Republican registration numbers (assuming Republicans maintain their current growth rates), Democrats need to register not quite 2,000 new Dem voters. Democrats can improve their chances of reaching those goals by teaming up with the Dakotans for Health circulators who are petitioning for the initiatives to codify Roe v. Wade (which the state Democratic Party endorsed last summer) and to repeal the food tax (which is a longstanding Democratic policy proposal).
Registering voters at the fairs, circulating initiative petitions to promote direct democracy—gee, those activities sound a lot more fun and effective for preventing the embarrassment of ranking third in voter registration behind slime-encrusted Republicans and completely disorganized independents than squabbling over who gets to be state party chair and executive director.