- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2020

Democrats are working overtime to maintain their voter registration edge in battleground states after losing ground to Republicans in places such as Pennsylvania’s Westmoreland County, where President Trump rallied supporters Thursday.

As of Monday, about 4.1 million Democrats were registered in Pennsylvania and 3.4 million Republicans.

But the Democrats’ edge slipped by more than 150,000 since November 2016 and dropped by about 40,000 since June.

“Pennsylvania has been a steady case of Republicans continuing to out-register Democrats,” said pollster John Couvillon.

In Westmoreland County, which boasts a blend of urban, suburban and rural settings near Pittsburgh, Republicans now have a voter registration advantage of more than 10,000 after Democrats had held a similar edge in November 2016.

Mr. Trump won 64% of the vote in Westmoreland in 2016 anyway and carried several nearby counties such as Washington, Beaver, Fayette and Greene en route to winning the state by about 44,000 votes.

“These are counties that Trump won in 2016 even though every one of them [had] a Democratic voter registration edge,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin and Marshall College Poll.

In Florida, 5.1 million Democratic voters were on the rolls as of July 20 compared to 4.9 million for the GOP, a Democratic lead that had declined by about 10,000 from a month earlier.

In North Carolina, Democrats had a 2.5 million to 2.1 million voter edge over Republicans as of Aug. 29, but that advantage has been steadily declining for years in a trend that has continued in recent months.

The COVID-19 crisis has upended traditional campaigning and get-out-the-vote efforts, so looking at raw voter registration totals at a time when campaign workers are liable to get a door slammed in their face can be tenuous.

“Voter registration trends are worth looking at, but they’re part of the bigger picture,” Mr. Couvillon said, saying the GOP has “very little margin for error” in Pennsylvania.

Tom Bonier, the CEO of TargetSmart, a Democratic political and data firm, said registration trends don’t necessarily reflect regular purges of the rolls by states and localities, for example.

Looking at new registrations is a better indicator of “relative intensity” between the two parties, he said.

His firm released an analysis this week that found that 44% of new registrants in Pennsylvania since 2016 are Democrats, compared to 30% who are Republicans.

TargetSmart projected that when factoring in the likely partisanship of new unaffiliated voters, Democrats accumulated a net advantage of more than 65,000 voters in Florida and more than 60,000 voters in North Carolina since 2016.

In all three states, TargetSmart had examined voters who were on file in 2016 and no longer are — very few of whom even cast a ballot then, he said.

“So their removal from the file since the ‘16 election doesn’t represent an advantage for either party,” Mr. Bonier said. “In fact, it only would represent an advantage for either party if those were active voters who were wrongly removed, thereby presenting a barrier to participating in 2020. And that does not appear to be the case in any of these states.”

Pope “Mac” McCorkle, a public policy professor at Duke University, said it’s worth tracking the number of people newly registered as unaffiliated voters, who have historically tended to be more conservative in North Carolina and other Southern states.

There are now more than 2.3 million unaffiliated voters in North Carolina, an increase of about 300,000 compared to November 2016.

“To extent that young people are more disproportionately filing as unaffiliated, you might think that that might be a countervailing advantage for the Democrats,” he said.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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