Monday was the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania’s Nov. 2 general election. As of Monday afternoon, Pennsylvania had 3,417,781 registered Republicans and 4,024,275 registered Democrats. That is the lowest number of registered Pennsylvania Democrats in a decade.
Registered Democratic voters peaked in 2012 during the Barrack Obama vs. Mitt Romney presidential race, then numbering 4,266,317. Compared to today, there are 242,042 fewer Democratic voters registered for Nov. 2.
Pennsylvania’s registered Democrats have historically outnumbered Republicans, but since 2011 the gap between Democratic and Republican voters has diminished, with Republican voters gaining ground in small bites. Over the last 10 years, 2020 saw the highest number of registered Pennsylvania Republican voters at 3,543,070.
The 2021 voter registration numbers show the smallest spread between the parties in at least a decade; there are 606,494 more Democratic voters than Republicans. It means that to prevail, statewide candidates will have to work hard to earn the support of about half of Pennsylvania’s 1,277,817 unaffiliated and third party registered voters.
These voters have become more powerful in recent years as their numbers have been outpacing the gap between Democrats and Republicans.
By comparison, in 2012, there were 4,140,374 registered Democratic voters and 3,027,312 Republicans, that is, 1,113,062 more registered Democrats than Republicans. That year, unaffiliated and third party registered voters numbered 1,000,559. With 112,503 fewer voters than the main parties, candidates could focus on pleasing their own party and didn’t have to think as much about which way these swing voters would sway.
Important Local Races
Voter registration numbers show the age of voters in both main parties are spread broadly across all age groups, spanning from 18–75, but registered Democrats skew younger than Republicans. Of the current registered Republicans, the majority, 21 percent, are in the 55–74 age group. Of registered Democrats, the majority, 18 percent, are age 25–34.
These statewide trends matter most in statewide races. This year, Pennsylvania’s only statewide races are: one seat each for Justice of the Supreme Court and Judge of the Superior Court, and two seats for Judge of the Commonwealth Court. Each is a 10-year term.
Voters traditionally rush to the polls in large numbers for presidential elections but low voter turnout is the norm for other years. Because of that, many elections of consequence are decided by just a handful of voters. Across Pennsylvania, school board members who will have a say in curriculum, school policies, and property tax rates are on the ballots, along with municipal leaders in small boroughs and large cities.
Some of these races are creating interest and may bring out more voters than usual.
In Philadelphia, Democratic District Attorney Larry Krasner faces long-time criminal defense attorney Republican Chuck Peruto. Under Krasner, the Philadelphia crime rate has soared. In 2016, the city saw 277 murders. As of Oct. 17, 2021, there have been 438 murders in 2021.
In Pittsburgh, voters are certain to get new leadership. Current Mayor Bill Peduto lost in the primary to Democratic state Rep. Edward Gainey who faces retired Pittsburgh police officer Tony Moreno, a Republican.
Appearing on the Harrisburg ballot are Democratic candidate Wanda R. D. Williams, the Harrisburg city council president, and Republican Timothy Rowbottom, who has been criticized for his views of the LGBT community after he posted on social media that he removed his daughter from public school because many of her school friends were lesbian or bisexual, and she thought she may be bisexual.
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse lost in the primary, so he won’t be on the ballot, but he is asking voters to support his write-in campaign. Papenfuse last week pitched spending $13 million in American Rescue Plan funds on rebuilding two city pools for racial equity and mentioned a plan to provide citizens with a guaranteed income program.
In 2020, total registered Pennsylvania voters— 9,090,962—were the highest in a decade. For 2021, there are 8,719,837 registered voters and it is worth noting that not every registered voter casts a vote. Pennsylvania’s population is 13.1 million, including non-citizens of the U.S. and people under 18 who are not eligible to vote.
The total percentage of the state population who will choose leadership for everyone on Nov. 2 remains to be seen.