A total 1,258 Luzerne County Democrats have switched their voter registrations to Republican since Jan. 1, compared to 412 during the same time period in the 2012 presidential primary, county Election Director Marisa Crispell said Wednesday.
County Republican Chairman Bill Urbanski described the shift as “terrific” but noted there’s no way to prove the reason without surveying everyone who switched. For example, Urbanski said one of his Democratic friends changed to a Republican registration so he could vote for Urbanski as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in the April 26 primary.
Urbanski believes mass media coverage of the Republican presidential contenders is a “driving force behind some switches.”
“Media attention has been focused on the Republican primary. It’s generated much more intensity than the Democratic primary,” Urbanski said.
He also believes some county Democrats have become dissatisfied with their presidential candidate options and political leadership at the state and national level.
Urbanski said polling data shows many Americans have “grown weary” and are “ready for a change” after eight years under Democratic President Barack Obama.
“It’s important to consider the other side of the equation when it comes to party defections. Not only are people switching to be with someone, they are also switching to be rid of someone,” he said.
Urbanski said he expects some will attribute the party switching to “one particular candidate,” referring to Donald Trump without naming him.
“I’m not willing to go that far,” Urbanski said.
The number of county Republicans who switched to Democratic registrations since the start of the year, according to Crispell: 212.
Her records show 97 Republicans became Democrats during the same period in 2012.
County Democratic Chairman Michael DeCosmo could not immediately be reached for comment.
More Republicans are registered overall compared to four years ago in the county, records show. The Republican count is 64,613 and was 62,567 in the 2012 primary, Crispell said.
A total 105,917 Democrats are currently registered in the county, while the count was 109,132 in 2012.
Wilkes University political science professor Tom Baldino stressed Pennsylvania is a closed primary state, which means voters can only pick someone from their registered party in the primary.
Baldino theorized Democrats may be switching because they:
• Believe one of the Republican presidential contenders is “more appealing” than the Democratic options.
• Are tepid about the Democratic presidential candidates and want to support a particular Republican hoping to keep their options open.
• Want to vote for the Republican they perceive is the “easiest” for a Democratic contender to defeat, a technique that has been called “raiding.”
March 28 is the last day to register to vote in the primary. Voter registration applications are available on the election section of the county website, www.luzernecounty.org.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.