Voter Registration Affects Current — and Future — Elections

Major Garrett highlighted yesterday's much-talked-about Steve Hildebrand memo aimed at increasing Obama voter turnout in Florida.

The memo points out some Florida demographics and notes activities the campaign is engaging in on the grassroots level for the final days — inner-city GOTV, Faith Outreach Programs, attorneys, etc.

That's all fairly standard stuff. What's striking, however, is a sentence tucked in near the end: "There is a lot at stake here — 27 electoral votes, but also the future of building Florida into a majority Democratic state in the years to come." From there, Hildebrand specifically mentions the 2010 elections — when Gov. Charlie Crist (R) and Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) are in-cycle — and the 2012 census and the redistricting that will follow.

Republicans — not just in Florida, but throughout the nation — should take note.

One aspect of the campaign that cannot be overstated is the success the Obama campaign has had in registering new voters. Voter rolls for Democrats have surged, which makes it more difficult for Republicans in tight down-ballot races — and also for GOP candidates in future elections.

An advantage in hard registration numbers raises the bar the opposing party must overcome, especially in congressional races and the state House and state Senate races that will affect the make-up of future congressional districts.

Picking up 20 new voters at a local Wal-Mart, or 15 at the town soccer complex every Saturday, soon adds up to real numbers that can determine important elections. It can also catch the opposing party by surprise.

Regardless of the outcome on Nov. 4, Hildebrand's memo should serve as a reminder of the impact increasing voter registration, one voter at a time, has on current and future elections. It's the very definition of party-building and a concrete example of how local politics, even on the precinct level, can have statewide and national implications.

In the past, the Republican Party did well with voter registration drives. Following the elections, it will need to rededicate itself to that purpose.