Iowa Republicans maintain voter registration lead following primary

By: - July 7, 2022 6:15 pm
Iowa election polling location

Republicans increased their party registration by 25,000 voters between June and July. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa’s Republican Party grew in ranks by almost 25,000 voters between June and July, new voting registration data shows.

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office reported that more than 681,871 Iowans are registered Republicans in July 2020, compared to more than 597,120 registered Democrats. The rest of the state’s nearly 1,850,000 registered voters are independents or third-party.

Democrats also gained more than 5,000 registrations in the past month. The contrast between the parties’ registrations over the past month shows a larger trend in Iowa voter demographics.

“I certainly am conscious of the fact that you’re starting to see some of these trends emerge in terms of party registration numbers. I think it’s probably far too soon to say that that’s more than a blip,” state Sen. Zach Wahls said Thursday in a news conference.

Republican voter registration surpassed both Democrats and no-party voters for the first time in years in 2020. Republicans today nearly match their numbers from July 2020, but Democrats have more than 80,000 fewer registered voters in the same time period.

Republicans argued that President Joe Biden’s tenure is motivating more Iowans to register as Republicans. Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann said economic issues, largely inflation and gas prices, were motivating voters this summer. He told the Gazette that Iowa Republicans were making the “largest effort for a midterm election” in state history.

Democrats said they were aware, but not panicking over the recent increase in Republican registration. Progressive politicians nationwide are hoping that recent conservative wins like the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will bring out voters in the upcoming general election. Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said state issues like Gov. Kim Reynolds’ private school scholarship proposal and the Iowa Supreme Court’s abortion decision will also persuade voters to show up for Democrats in November.

Wilburn pointed out that Democrats still outnumber Republicans in three of Iowa’s four congressional districts. Republicans are less than 4,000 voters away from matching registered Democrats in all but the 4th District, where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 90,000.

“We will leverage that advantage, and also motivate Iowans who are no party and moderate Republicans to vote for our candidates,” Wilburn said.

Despite the shifts, Iowa remains roughly evenly divided in thirds between the two major parties and independent voter affiliations. Wahls, Iowa Senate minority leader, said there are other factors at play in shifting registration numbers. He said he knew Democrats personally who had registered as Republicans to vote in the party’s primaries this June, supporting moderate Republicans.

Wahls said many Iowans felt they needed to get involved in down-ballot state primaries to protect moderate Republicans who were targeted by Reynolds and conservative interest groups on issues like education and abortion.

“Increasingly, I think it’s clear that Gov. Reynolds and her Republican counterparts, they don’t want to govern. They want to rule,” he said. “And that’s why they’re stamping out the last specks of moderation in their legislative caucuses.”

Iowa’s trend toward higher Republican registration follows national numbers. According to analysis of 31 states from The Associated Press, about two-thirds of voters who have switched party registrations this past year moved to the Republican Party. Des Moines and its surrounding suburbs were one of the areas where Republicans gained the most ground.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.