- Democrats led a spike in new voters ahead of the midterm elections
- Pennsylvania now has more than 4 million registered Democrats and 3.48 million Republicans
- But there are more Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections than there were in 2018
In a midterm election where Pennsylvania has become a battleground for control of Congress, Democrats lead a massive spike in new voters in the weeks leading up to Election Day, but Republicans have more voters now than in 2018.
Pennsylvania State Department voter records show nearly 232,198 people have registered to vote so far this year, with nearly 10% of that total registering in the week ending October 24. , the last day to register to vote in the 2022 elections.
About 44% of those new registrations went to Democrats, who now make up more than 4 million of Pennsylvania’s 8.84 million voters. Republican voters total about 3.48 million, and an additional 1.32 million voters are registered in one of the roughly 400 other parties recognized by state voter rolls.
Democrats have maintained a sizable lead over the GOP and other voters since Junewhen the Supreme Court issued a decision that effectively overturned Roe v. Wade and put abortion on the ballot in November.
Court decision 6-3 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization appeared to be boosting voter registrations on the left and among independents and other voters, all of which exceeded new Republican registrations until about a month ago.
New GOP voters made up about 29% of the most recent new voters, followed by 27% for other parties and unaffiliated.
High stakes at the top of the ticket
The push comes as the Senate race between the Democratic lieutenant governor. John Fetterman and former Republican television host and heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz has shrunk and Attorney General Josh Shapiro is seeking to keep the Democratic governorship against Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano.
With the US Senate split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, the race to fill retired Republican Senator Pat Toomey’s seat in Pennsylvania has captured national attention and could decide whether Democrats maintain their one-vote majority. when Vice President Kamala Harris is the tiebreaker.
Oz has seen his support grow at a glacial pace since the May 17 primary, where he narrowly beat Dave McCormick by less than 1,000 votes for the party’s nomination.
Social media kept Fetterman in the conversation as he recovered from a stroke suffered days before the primary, helping the former Braddock mayor maintain a significant lead in the polls for months.
These polls have changed earlier this month from giving Fetterman the lead over Oz to now calling the race a draw.
Oz and Fetterman met for their first and only debate on October 25, with Fetterman struggling to answer some questions due to stroke-related speech and hearing issues while Oz deflected questions about a nationwide abortion ban and multiple investigations into former President Donald Trump.
What you need to know about the debate in the Senate:5 takeaways from the one and only Oz-Fetterman debate
A Democratic peak can be misleading
A wave of new Democrats could bode well for Fetterman and other Democrats running for office across the state, but a Shippensburg University project on voter registration and past election results suggests that this contest is far from an uphill battle for GOP candidates.
Political science professor Alison Dagnes, who led Shippensburg University’s Election Research Project (SUPER) in Pennsylvania with 16 students from Wood Honor College, said Republicans had grown significantly and Democrats had decreased since the last half of 2018.
Danges said students from 10 different majors created the extensive collection of county-level election maps in the current semester.
The SUPER website estimates that Republicans had about 3.2 million voters to Democrats’ 4.1 million in the 2018 election, when control of the House shifted from Republican to Democrat.
Democrats had nearly 76,000 fewer voters last week than four years ago, down nearly 2%, and Republicans were up 218,397 voters since last half, an increase of about 6.7%.
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It is complicated’
Dagnes said the project underscores important considerations when looking at registration data, chief among them being that political parties do not dictate voting patterns.
“My contention is, and I think what the data shows is that it’s more complicated than that. You can register as a Republican, you can register as a Democrat, but there can be an election where you vote for the ticket and in different ways,” Dagnes said.
The presidential elections of 2016 and 2020 are a good example.
Republicans and Democrats have seen roughly the same growth each election year compared to the previous midterm, but former President Donald Trump won the first race with about 44,000 votes and lost the next with nearly the double this margin.
Even in a deeply polarized political climate, Dagnes noted that candidates must appeal to voters from all walks of life if they want to hold office.
“One of the big bailiwicks I have in this election is that we’re headed to a place where I think a lot of elected officials (and candidates) may think they just have to talk to the people who already love them, and I’m not okay with that,” Dagnes said.
Whichever party leads in new registrations, even millions of new voters won’t help any candidate if they don’t show up on Election Day.
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Turnout drops mid-term
The 2016 presidential contest saw about 61% of Pennsylvania’s roughly 8.7 million voters turn out, up from about 76.5% turnout of more than 9 million registered voters in 2020, according to state election reports.
Turnout and the total number of voters both decline mid-term. In 2018, about 58% of the 8.6 million voters re-elected Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and Senator Bob Casey.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 1.36 million voters requested a mail-in ballot and just over 57% were returned to election officials. Assuming none of those 780,545 ballots are spoiled, the returned ballots would mean an 8% turnout so far in the 2022 election.
Ever since Bill 77 of 2019 allowed no-apology absentee ballots, Democrats have generally been the party to favor mail-in voting and this year looks no different.
The last day to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 1, and all absentee ballots must be received by a voter’s County Board of Elections office by 8 p.m. Nov. 8.
Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on November 8.