Voter Registration Update: Latest data shows a strong summer for the GOP
As of last week, Pa. had 4M registered Democrats and 3.4M registered Republicans
Key: Navy – D+5,000 or more, Blue – D+1,001 to D+4,999, Light Skyblue – D+1 to D+1,000. Light Salmon – R+1 to R+1,000, Red – R+1,001 to R+4,999, Maroon – R+5,000 or more. (Map by Nick Field via Dave’s Redistricting)
It was a cruel summer for Pennsylvania Democrats as Republicans resumed their voter registration gains.
In fact, it was a tough few months for Dems in D.C. as well. The COVID surge caused by the Delta Variant, combined with the contentious withdrawal from Afghanistan and gridlock in Washington, sent President Biden’s approval ratings into a tailspin.
Those struggles were reflected in the Keystone State’s registration numbers. After the Dems expanded their advantage to 630,075 in June, Republicans were able to drive that edge down to 605,493.
As of last week, Pennsylvania had 4,025,694 registered Democrats and 3,420,201 registered Republicans. That’s a double drop from June, when there were 4,057,723 Democrats and 3,427,648 Republicans.
To get a sense of where these changes are taking place, let’s take a deep dive into the numbers.
A quick note: I explore our changing voter trends by tracking the gains one party accumulated in registrations over the other party. For example, R+500 means that the Republican Party gained a net 500 more registered voters in that county than the Democratic Party did over this time period, while D+500 indicates the opposite.
Possibly because of the new school year starting at Penn State, Dems saw a slight jump in Centre County. They also got a nice little surprise in Montour County. Besides that, though, this rural area kept getting redder.
Speaking of a rural area getting even more Republican, this trend extends to the north-central portion of the commonwealth as well. Those unexpected patches of blue from the last report are pretty much gone.
That Luzerne County number is sure to be heartening for the GOP, which continues to make strong gains in that county. Wilkes-Barre was a favorite of Donald Trump’s in 2016 and 2020, so I’d expect him to return in 2022 and 2024. Meanwhile, Wyoming County stands out for going against the grain.
In the run-up to 2020, Lt. Governor John Fetterman was fond of saying that whoever won Erie would win Pennsylvania and thus the presidency. True to form, it was one of only two PA counties to flip from Trump to Biden last November (Northampton County was the other). Therefore, this is an especially distressing result for Dems and one they’ll have to soon stem.
Yet again, this area of the commonwealth shows great promise for the Democrats. Cumberland and Lancaster counties are two of the few red counties trending blue, although it will take years for the numbers to officially flip. I’ll be watching closely to see how this region gets divided up in the latest round of redistricting.
An update in the Philly voter rolls hit Dems particularly hard this summer. At the same time, the GOP continues to make important gains in Bucks County and the Lehigh Valley. On the other hand, the collar counties of Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties remain powerhouses of Democratic growth.
That result in Butler County is especially intriguing. It’s the one southwestern county that saw its population grow over the last decade, and Democrats gained ground there in 2018 and 2020. We might be seeing the first seeds of exurban outgrowth from Pittsburgh here. Nevertheless, everywhere else here Republicans are still reaping registrations from converted ancestral Appalachian Democrats.
The raw numbers, however, tell a different story. Last October, Democrats held a 700,853 margin statewide. This October, it stands at 605,493. So despite that initial Democratic optimism, the longer-term trends still favor Republicans.
Indeed, the GOP’s growth in the summer of 2021 suggests Republicans are right on track for a successful fall of 2022. Pennsylvania, the only state with both open governor and U.S. Senate races next year, is sure to be a central battleground.
Before we look ahead to 2022, though, there are important local elections happening throughout the commonwealth next week. At the moment, Republicans appear to have the wind at their backs, the Nov. 2 election results should let us know if that impression is correct.
Correspondent Nick Field covers southeastern Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star. Follow him on Twitter @Nick_Field90.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.