Chester County Democrats predict they will surpass Republicans in the total number of registered voters sometime in April, reversing a decades-long advantage the GOP has held there.
Should it happen, the event would mark another significant shift in Pennsylvania’s politics at a time when suburban and exurban voters have become highly coveted in elections, from county commissioner to the White House.
Current voter statistics from the Department of State website and the Chester County voter services website show that as of Monday, March 30, out of 356,747 registered voters:
- 146,762 are Democrat;
- 147,809 are Republican; and
- 62,176 are unaffiliated or other.
Registration statistics for the primary in 2018 show that out of 348,327 registered voters:
- 135,801 were Democrat;
- 151,090 were Republican; and
- 61,436 were unaffiliated or other.
A GOP lead in registrations of 15,000 just two years ago is now down to about 1,000.
“We expect to reach parity [with Republicans] if things continue on this trend by the middle of April,” Chester County Democratic Committee Chair Richard Bingham told Delaware Valley Journal. “It shows the growing enthusiasm for the Democratic Party and for the things that we’ve been doing as a party in Chester County.”
Bingham did express some concern that the limits on social life due to “shelter-at-home” orders could depress some voter registration efforts and mitigate their current rate of increase.
The figures also mirror broader voter shifts seen in 2018, when Democratic gains in suburban areas nationally helped lift the party to the majority in the U.S. House, even winning congressional races in places like suburban Oklahoma City that had been thought of as reliably bright red.
In the Delaware Valley, the shift in Chester does not imperil any congressional incumbent, but it could begin a new era of launching local Democrats in smaller offices, thereby building the party’s bench — which could pay dividends in the region years later.
For example, Democrats swept the county council in neighboring Delaware County just four months ago, “shutting out Republicans and decisively switching the composition of a county government that the GOP controlled since the Civil War,” WHYY reported.
Republicans, however, say that Democrats are so focused on gains in counties like Chester, they may be missing other statewide trends at their own peril.
“The Chester County Democrats are only pointing out part of the story,” said Charlie O’Neill, deputy executive director for the Pennsylvania GOP.
“Since 2016 the Democrat registration advantage in Pennsylvania has shrunk by more than 100,000 voters. There are 54 counties under Republican control, a new record,” he said. “The Republican Party is also fresh off three special election wins in the State House, including a district that voted for Clinton in 2016. President Trump is going to win Pennsylvania again in 2020, and continue to help grow our party.”
An analysis of voter registration by the Pennsylvania Capital-Star two weeks ago showed Republicans picking up solid gains in nine northeast counties. The same report also predicted that Lawrence and Cambria counties in southwest Pennsylvania are likely to flip Republican soon, based on current trends.
The March 23 Department of State statistics showed Democrats maintaining a voter registration advantage of almost 15,000 in Bucks County, 39,000 in Delaware, 81,000 in Montgomery and 705,000 in Philadelphia.
Statewide, Democrats mark just over 4 million registered voters compared to neary 3,250,000 registered Republicans.