Democrats in Pennsylvania have been busy touting a voter registration number: 19,000. It is the reported number of voters who have left the Republican Party since the horrifying events of January 6. However, a closer examination of voter habits and registration in the commonwealth shows a less encouraging picture for the Democratic party, which saw little down ballot success in 2020.
Since voters went to the polls in November 2016, the Democratic voter registration edge has shrunk by 294,512 voters. To put that into perspective, the voter registration advantage Democrats enjoyed in 2016 has been reduced by nearly one-third, from 916,274 to 621,762 voters. While Joe Biden did win Pennsylvania, a statewide Democrat incumbent lost for the first time in over 20 years – former Treasurer Joe Toreslla. A Republican also captured the open Auditor General seat, all incumbent Republican Congressmen went back to Washington, the State Senate remained unchanged, and the State House saw its Republican majority grow by three seats. This was in no small part due to years of Republican voter registration gains.
Since voters went to the polls in November 2016, the Democratic voter registration edge has shrunk by 294,512 voters. To put that into perspective, the voter registration advantage Democrats enjoyed in 2016 has been reduced by nearly one-third, from 916,274 to 621,762 voters.
There are many reasons for this Republican shift, not the least of which is former President Trump. Trump’s appeal to working class, often union, Democrats no doubt helped fuel the registration shifts, especially in Western Pennsylvania. Additionally, the Republican 2020 grassroots effort was vastly larger than the Democrat’s, which was nearly non-existent. Republican campaigns and candidates from President on down knocked doors and sought out voters mask to mask. It is also worth noting that many of the folks who registered to vote for President Obama in 2008, but have not voted since, are coming off the voter rolls because of an “inactive” status.
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Further reason for discouragement among Democrats is that their new favorite number — 19,000 — isn’t what they think it is. Since the start of 2021, 6,997 voters have also left the Democratic Party. This number blunts the cumulative effect of the 18,961 voters who’ve left the Republican Party. And the Democrats who are walking away are registering Republican at a clip of 62%, whereas merely 45% of former Republicans registered Democratic.
In the Republican quest to flip the voter registration numbers, any losses hurt the overall effort. However, from 2016 to 2020, 419,142 Democrats left their party, and 70 percent, or 293,528, flipped Republican. During the same stretch, Republicans lost a little more than half that number, 245,180 voters, with 68 percent, or 166,804, flipping Democrat.
Since the start of 2021, 6,997 voters have also left the Democratic Party. This number blunts the cumulative effect of the 18,961 voters who’ve left the Republican Party.
Voter registration data is just one of many ways to understand political shifts, but it is a strong one. Pennsylvania voters, after years of a paper option only, are now able to register or change their voter registration online. While the process is easier, it still takes effort. And a shift of 19,000 voters sends a message, especially when President Biden’s margin of victory was 80,555 votes. But, to tout that number in a vacuum is to leave out many other consequential facts.
Note: All numbers are from the PA Department of State update on 2/16/20
Charlie O’Neill has spent over a decade working in politics, public policy, and communications.
4 thoughts on “Charlie O’Neill: The voter registration numbers Democrats don’t want to talk about”
Wonder how much of party switching is to take advantage of trying to sway results in other party than one’s own? Maybe closed primaries need to be even more “closed ” so party switchers don’t show up just to pick weakest candidate.
Thank you for putting in the link to the data set. It was interesting to see that with a 700,000 voter registration edge for the Democrat party, the Biden candidacy only beat Trump by about 80,000. This seems to indicate to me that Pennsylvania is a true purple state.
Less Trump appeal and Republican appeal than the Dems abandoning their base with gusto. Moderate dems inch away to the less crazy side. Then, after January 6th, there was a slight inch back – probably of Republicans that wanted nothing to do with the craziness in the party.
I hope there is more room for dissent moving forward as Trump attempts to keep his claws around the Republicans. The biggest threat is the ignorance to dangers of Communism. All anyone talks about is Trump. Hes gone. Stop the distractions and get the party to a winnable position.
“ ignorance to communism “” is being practiced …where ? China practices state capitalism with a high % going to the people who control the reins of government being the primary winners . I do not know if it is 1% or 10% like the US. The difference in this country…we call it a free market economic republic with democracy on the side.Russia and venenzuela
R oliogarchies. Stalin and Hitler ruled over avowed communist and socialistic …did their actions match their rhetoric ? Maybe you should focus on why our minimum wage is lower than South Korea or Ireland while making billionaire tax free and creating an ongoing debter class vis a vis the youth…only empire to do so in recorded history. Most developed nations practice a combo of socialism and a market economy that subsidizes health and education .It does not require that citizens court poverty to receive those benefits so people like The De Vos can court billionaire status. We court war and pass the ammunition so the benefactors of the Pentagon never see any red ink and when they do …bailout time for those poor coupon clippers.