National Black Lives Matter civil rights protests sparked a surge in voter registrations, says new analysis from TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm. Comparing 2020 voter registration data to the last presidential year (2016), TargetSmart found that while new registration numbers in March, April, and May had “tanked” from 2016, there was “a meaningful surge in June that coincided with the national protest movement.”
They found that “while 1.6 million Americans registered in June 2016, 1.1 million Americans registered in the first 15 days of June this year.” Every state that provided data, they report, had a boost in registrations in the first week of June, the week the protests became a nationwide phenomenon. TargetSmart doesn’t have a full month of data yet from all states, but the company calls out some highlights, including from some battleground states. Minnesota, the epicenter of the movement, nearly doubled June registrations from 2016—from from 17,000 in 2016 to 32,000 in June’s first two weeks. In the first two weeks of June, Michigan saw a 25% increase in Democratic registration over what it was the whole of June 2016. More than 30,000 Democrats registered in those two weeks, while Republican registrations dropped by 20%. Likewise in Iowa, hardly a bastion of the protest movement, 3,821 Democrats registered—a 49% increase over 2016.
“It doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen in every state and every community,” Tom Bonier, the chief executive of TargetSmart, told The New York Times. But what’s noteworthy about it is that “[i]t’s happening in red states and blue states and purple states.” TargetSmart’s analysis is borne out by the experience of voting rights organizations. “Right when the protests started, it’s as if a light switch got flipped on,” said Andy Bernstein, the executive director of Headcount, a nonpartisan voter registration organization. He told the Times that his group’s registrations in June increased 10 times over May and more than 10 times compared with June 2016.
“That first week of June, as of that date, that was the largest voter registration week for Rock the Vote, including deadline-driven primaries, and there were no major deadlines going on,” Carolyn DeWitt, the president of Rock the Vote, told the Times. They registered more than 100,000 people in that one week.
“There’s this level of intensity, people are feeling like this situation is being very much mishandled, and if they have the opportunity to go and cast a ballot and put different people in charge,” Bonier told NBC News last month while preparing the analysis. “I think we’re seeing that in the vote registrations.”