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South Dakota voter registration down

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August 14, 2012

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: Voter registration in South Dakota has dropped since 2008 for Democrats and Republicans, but more voters are declaring themselves Independents.[1][2][3] As of August 11, the number of registered voters are down 3.2 percent, or 16,841 statewide.[1]

Republican voter registration is down by 4,622 voters, or about 2 percent from 2008 numbers. The Republican party did pick up more than 400 voters from July 1, 2012 to August 1, 2012, with more expected to register after the Republican convention.[1] Republican Party Chairman Tony Post commented, ""It is hard, because it is August, and people are trying to enjoy their summer. People will start to get engaged after the convention in Tampa."[1] Post also noted that the Republican party is targeting registration in specific legislative districts throughout the state, mostly through phone banks.[3]

Democratic voter registration numbers are also down contrasted with 2008 numbers. In 2008, the state saw a dramatic increase in the number of voters registering as Democrats. Between the 2006 and 2008 general elections, more than 13,000 voters registered Democrat, some say largely driven by the Obama campaign.[3] Since then, the number of Democratic voters has decreased to levels below 2006 numbers.[3] Democratic registration dropped 18,372 voters, or about 9 percent, since the 2008 general election. State Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf noted, "Registration doesn't really concern me. I am more concerned with how people vote." He also went on to comment that 2008 numbers were the "high-water mark of the history of our party," in terms of registration and said it is misleading to compare numbers now to then.[3] In 2010 the Democratic party in South Dakota opened its primary election to registered Independent voters, which Nesselhuf believes opened the door for independent-leaning Democrats to register as Independents.[1]

The overall number of voters registering as Independents increased 7.5 percent since the 2008 general election, to 88,726 voters as of August 2012.[1] "I think that more and more from both parties are very disenfranchised with the parties and finding the parties are becoming so divisive that it seems like the message is becoming more and more fringe," said Kim Wright, the founder of South Dakota Voice of Independents. "It isn't about being in the middle but about not being able to identify with the extreme issues."[1][2]

South Dakota is one of 21 states to use a closed primary system, although Independents may vote in the Democratic primary.[4]

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