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GOP sees drop in number of voters

Rolls at lowest point in 6 years

The number of registered Republicans in Massachusetts has fallen by more than by 31,000 since the state elected Governor Mitt Romney four years ago, in a 6 percent drop that puts GOP ranks at their lowest point in six years, according to a count released yesterday.

With the Republican Party fighting to keep its 16-year hold on the governor’s office this Tuesday, the new figures show that Republicans make up 12.5 percent of the state’s voters, or 498,962. Four years ago, when the state elected Romney, there were 530,512 registered Republicans, making up 13.4 percent of the electorate.

"The last 10 years, it’s as if the Republican Party has been evaporating in this state," said Todd Domke, a Republican analyst who has worked with the national party. "But it’s less a matter of registration than fewer candidates, fewer officeholders, fewer leaders, and no strategy to reverse the trend. That's what’s disturbing."

The registration numbers also reflected an increase in unenrolled voters over the last four years. The number who do not belong to a political party swelled by almost 22,000 since 2002, to 1.98 million, or almost 50 percent of registered voters in the state. Also, unenrolled voters were responsible for the largest registration jump since this year’s primary, increasing by almost 39,000 since September.

The number of unenrolled voters increased by almost 39,000 since the primary to 1.9 million, or almost 50 percent of registered voters in Massachusetts.

"One of the things we have done is a lot of phone banking since the primary, trying to get people to get out and vote, so we’re hopefully seeing the results of that," said Nicole Nionakis, spokesman for independent Christy Mihos. "Fifty percent is an amazing number, and it’s great for Christy. As he’s said, those are his people. He’s an independent candidate, and unenrolled people are who he is targeting.’’

Brian Dodge, executive director of the state Republican Party, said the GOP is also targeting independent voters as it readies for the contest among Republican nominee Kerry Healey, Democrat Deval Patrick, Mihos, and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross.

"Unenrolled doesn’t mean undecided,’’ said Dodge, who defended this year’s slate of GOP candidates. "I would describe [many of the unenrolled] as closet Republicans."

Democrats gained about 30,000 voters in the last four years, increasing their numbers by 2 percent, according to the new registration data.

The data released yesterday did not include numbers for other political affiliations, including Green-Rainbow and Libertarian, which should be available today.

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