How people elect parliaments
The results of the US presidential election party primaries in New York state are coming in today. As was widely expected, Donald Trump has had a big win in the Republican race.
Hilary Clinton, by contrast, appears to have won more narrowly over Senator Bernie Sanders. (Results are still incomplete at time of posting. UPDATE: by the end of the night, Clinton’s margin has grown to be significantly stronger, at around 58% to 42%)
One of the intriguing aspects of this result has been raised by Sanders’ campaign. New York state holds ‘closed’ primary elections, where only voters registered as affiliated with each party can participate. Those voters who are on the roll but do not declare a party affiliation can’t participate in New York primaries.
Sanders, who has run a very effective insurgent campaign attracting support from outside the Democratic party’s base, is obviously disadvantaged by this background.
There has been widespread expectation – and claims – that Sanders and Trump are both bringing out active voters who would not normally participate.
But New York’s official enrolment statistics don’t support this analysis.
The New York State Board of Elections – the official agency responsible for enrolments (known as registrations in the US) – releases updated statistics on enrolment every six months, on 1 April and 1 November.
The relevant rules are that voters previously enrolled who wanted to revise their party support declaration needed to do so by last October – before the primary election season had really even begun.
New voters joining the roll more recently, up until the end of March, could include a party affiliation and participate in today’s party primaries.
On 1 October 2015 the statistics stood at 2,719,330 Republicans and 5,778,460 Democratic supporters. There were 476,873 ‘independent’ voters enroled without a party affiliation. (Another 240,000 voters were affiliated with minor parties, and 2,487,495 were ‘blank’.)
On 1 April 2016 the refreshed statistics were 2,731,688 Republicans, 5,792,497 Democrats, and 475,566 independents (together with still around 240,000 affiliated with minor parties and 2,485,475 unmarked).
Basically, the enrolment affiliation statistics barely changed between November and April.
Admittedly, the enrolment changes had to be locked in four weeks ago, before the campaign machines hit New York actively.
But this data is evidence that the claims that the primary campaign were shifting voters basic affiliations – at least to the extent that voters are taking action to update their registered affiliations – may well be highly exaggerated.