Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s recent agitating about “national divorce” has an explicit trigger.
Part of Greene’s rhetoric on the issue included advocacy for a policy that would prevent the pollution of this utopian state’s politics by outsiders. Why not have red states bar new blue-state arrivals from voting for a few years, she offered, preventing Manhattanites from moving to Tupelo to claw back the city council for Democrats.
We wondered how often these blue-to-red-state moves occurred and, using Census Bureau data, tried to parse the extent to which this was a common pattern. But those numbers are limited, since they capture only state-to-state move data and not, for example, people who might be intentionally fleeing California’s left-wing politics in favor of the protective embrace of South Dakota.
Thanks to the political data firm L2, though, we now have a better means of considering the question Greene raises. By comparing the registrations of voters who filled out federal change-of-address forms when moving between states, we can get a look at how often red states are infiltrated by blue-state Democrats — and vice versa.
(L2′s data are also limited in that not every state has partisan voter registration. But the firm models registration based on other factors, such as voting in party primaries or demographic factors. For our analysis, we included both state-reported registration and L2′s modeled data.)
We broke the people identified as having moved between states in the past five years (about 5.2 million people) into nine categories: those who moved from blue states to blue states, those who moved from red states to red states, those who moved from swing states to swing states (defined as having a 2020 presidential vote margin of three points or less), and each of the six other combinations of interstate moves.
Then we looked at how they had registered in their old state and how they registered in their new one. In most cases, about 3.5 million of them, people either retained their party registration or continued to be independent or third-party voters (who we lumped into one group). This gave us 81 different scenarios (blue to red state, Democrat to Republican, etc.). But thanks to a little data visualization, we can give a broad sense of how these moves play out.
On the chart below, the “from” states and party are shown from top to bottom. The “to” states and party are shown left to right. So take the highlighted box at top right. It shows moves from blue states to red ones — the moves Greene seems so worried about — and, within it, the percentage of registration changes ranging from Democrat-to-Democrat (top left) to Republican-to-Republican (bottom right). The size of each circle in a column — blue state, red state, etc. — indicates the pertinent percentage of all moves to that category of state.
Consider that right-most column of moves to red states. About 46 percent of all of those who moved to those states registered as Republicans. Only 30 percent registered as Democrats. The biggest category of arrivals was Republicans who moved from red states and are registered or modeled as Republicans.
Here are the specific numbers, showing the percentage of arrivals in each type of state who ended up registering in each partisan group. (You may need to scroll to see all of the elements of the table.)
It is the case that arrivals in red states are more likely to register as Democrats than arrivals in blue states are to register as Republicans. But a plurality of red-state arrivals end up as Republicans.
If we break out arrivals’ registrations by their points of origin, we see that a quarter of new Democrats in blue states came from blue states. A fifth of new Republicans in red states came from red states. Twelve percent of new Democrats in red states came from blue states and 7 percent of new Republicans in blue states came from red ones.
Again, most people aren’t changing their registration when they move. Here are the fractions that did.
A slightly higher percentage of those moving to red states switched to Republican than switched to Democrat after moving to blue states.
Another, admittedly more complicated way to look at this is shown below. You can see that most of those who move from blue states to blue states are Democrats who stay Democrats. Moves from red to blue states involve more Democrats staying Democrats than Republicans staying Republicans, while moves from blue states to red states involve a more even ratio of Democrats and Republicans sticking with their own parties.
If we look specifically at Georgia — the swing state that Greene hails from — we see a similar pattern. According to the L2 data, about 17 percent of recent arrivals were Republicans from red states who are modeled as Republicans. (Georgia has nonpartisan registration.) About the same percentage are red-state Democrats who are modeled as Democrats. A slightly lower percentage are blue-state Democrats who still are modeled as Democrats, and only 6 percent are blue-state Republicans who still are modeled as Republicans.
Were Greene’s proposal to go into effect in Georgia, she’d be excluding the 8 percent of new arrivals who came from blue states and are modeled as Republicans. She’d be allowing the 22 percent of new arrivals from red states who are modeled as Democratic — more than 18 percent of blue-state arrivals who are modeled as being members of that party.
Anyway, the idea violates federal law, so that’s that — at least until the “national divorce.”