Election 2020: Unregistered Voters in Swing States

Election Day is now less than two weeks away. Among registered voters, the vast majority of minds have been made up—and adding to the sense of urgency, tens of millions have already voted. With record low numbers of undecided voters left to convince, some pundits say that energizing and activating unregistered eligible voters may be the surest way for the campaigns to make any further gains. This week, we continue our election-related data analysis by looking at unregistered voters in key states, finding that millions of unregistered voters still have time to register and vote in the 2020 presidential election.

While the deadline to register has passed in many states, 7 out of 13 swing states allow for same-day registration on Election Day or during early voting, including Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Focusing on these 7 swing states with same-day registration (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin) to determine how many unregistered voters could still participate in this year’s election. We combined our recent data on the changing electorate in swing states with voter data from the 2008-2018 Current Population Survey to forecast the registration rates of different segments of the population in the 7 swing states

The data show that significant numbers of eligible voters are likely still unregistered in these key states:

  • In the 7 swing states that allow for same-day registration, there are more than 572,000 unregistered Hispanic voters, including 186,000 in Nevada; almost 126,000 in North Carolina, which allows for in-person registration during early voting; and more than 101,000 in Michigan.
  • There are more than 980,000 unregistered Black or African American voters across the 7 swing states, including more than 466,000 in North Carolina and almost 292,000 in Michigan.
  • There are also almost 305,000 unregistered Asian voters spread across the 7 swing states, including in Nevada (77,400), Michigan, (63,800), and Minnesota (58,700).
  • While we expect there to be almost 11.8 million registered immigrant voters this year–an all-time high–nearly 40 percent of all eligible immigrant voters nationwide remain unregistered. In the 7 swing states the share of eligible immigrant voters that remain unregistered ranges from 40.6 percent in Nevada, to 28.0 percent in North Carolina. 
  • In some swing states that allow for same-day registration, unregistered immigrant voters form a sizable bloc of untapped electoral power, including in Michigan (99,800), Nevada (84,800), and North Carolina (56,200).

Table 1: Number of Unregistered Voters in Swing States with Same-Day Voter Registration

State Non-Hispanic White Black / African American Asian Hispanic Other Total 2016 Margin
Iowa 516,200 18,800 15,700 32,500 12,400 595,600 147,314
Michigan 1,484,500 291,700 63,800 101,000 61,700 2,002,800 13,080
Minnesota 745,700 6,800 58,700 46,600 38,100 949,900 44,470
Nevada 356,000 66,700 77,400 186,400 36,800 723,300 26,434
New Hampshire 236,800 3,100 7,000 11,400 6,400 264,600 2,701
North Carolina 1,283,300 466,100 51,200 125,800 77,600 2,004,000 177,009
Wisconsin 836,400 73,000 31,100 68,600 29,300 1,038,500 27,257
Source: 2018 American Community Survey, 1-Year Sample; 2008-2018 Current Population Survey, Voting Supplement; National Conference of State Legislatures, 2020; New York Times, 2016.

Table 2: Unregistered Immigrant Voters in Swing States

State Immigrant Eligible Voters Share of Immigrant Eligible Voters, Unregistered Number of Unregistered Immigrant Voters
Iowa 48,900 35.0% 17,100
Michigan 264,100 37.8% 99,800
Minnesota 145,000 35.5% 51,500
Nevada 208,700 40.6% 84,800
New Hampshire 34,200 31.5% 10,800
North Carolina 200,400 28.0% 56,200
Wisconsin 90,700 29.0% 26,300
Sources: 2018 American Community Survey; 2008-2018 Current Population Survey, Voting Supplement. Totals and shares may not match exactly due to rounding.

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