Blue wave: Dems add to their enrollment advantage in Ulster

The Hudson (Will Dendis)

New county-level elections statistics released October 19 by the Ulster County Board of Elections show a much stronger local blue wave than red tide likely in the November 6 election. The new numbers indicate an acceleration of the longtime trend toward Democratic dominance of Ulster County political enrollment. With 8,000 more Ulster County enrolled Democrats than in November four years ago and no more Republicans, the Democratic edge has now reached a tipping point. The role of the players in Ulster County’s two-party system has been substantially changed, and the trend is likely to continue.

With only a few hundred voters likely to be added to the Ulster County rolls as absentee registrations are tallied before the general  election, as of October 19 there were 45,670 active Democratic voters, 28,148 active Republicans and 33,611 voters not enrolled in any party on the rolls. With the numbers for the minor parties added, there was as of last Friday a record number of 117,676 active eligible voters in Ulster County.

There are about 2500 more eligible voters on the Ulster County rolls this year than in the 2016 presidential election. After other changes in the rolls, the Democrats have gained 2467 registrants since this April, the Republicans 104, and those not enrolled in any party 684.


More like a presidential year

Total Ulster County enrollment has increased in 2018 by 3804. The increase is unusual in a midterm year. The number of active voters normally peaks during the presidential year in the electoral cycle. As was evident in the higher voter turnout for the September Democratic primary, however, 2018 is turning out to be an unusually engaged off-year in Ulster County.  The voter turnout may more resemble a presidential year than a midterm year.

According to the county elections board, 8198 new eligible voters registered between January 1 and October 19 of this year. Of those, 4386 registered as Democrats, 2286 as not enrolled in any party, 966 as  Republicans, and the remaining 560 in the minor parties. The nine-to-two new-registration edge in favor of the Democrats over the Republicans is not unusual in today’s Ulster County. In the past decade, the Republicans have lost 2500 registrants while the Democrats have gained 8000.

As nationally, the new party registrations show a big gender gap, The Democrats added 2549 newly registered women and 1837 newly registered men this year while the Republicans added 393 women and 573 men. Since the New York State registration cutoff date came only a few days after the Senate vote on Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, it is hard to assess Senate GOP majority leader Mitch McConnell’s hypothesis of a late red tide of Republican registrations in Ulster County. There’s no direct evidence for it.

The new registration numbers have a significance for the solely watched congressional race between GOP incumbent John Faso and Democratic challenger Antonio Delgado. In the 2016 presidential year, Faso defeated Zephyr Teachout by 25,000 votes. The only county in the congressional district that Teachout won was Ulster, where she came out 9300 votes ahead. To beat Faso, Delgado has to improve on Teachout’s Ulster performance. Assuming a presidential-year turnout for the midterm, five thousand more votes in Ulster (50,000 in all) on November 6 may not be enough. Ten thousand more votes (55,000) probably will be.

It’s a heavy lift for the challenger, but the new Ulster County numbers will give Delgado a boost.

In a year with substantial new registrations, turnout is more important than ever. The hard work involved in getting new voters registered in off years in particular can be dissipated by a lack of follow-through in getting the new voter into the voting booth. As all politicians know, the deal isn’t closed until the vote is cast.