News

Republicans lose some advantage in Franklin County ahead of mid-terms

Written by Jim Hook/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Oct 11, 2018 6:46 AM
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FILE - This Oct. 19, 2017, file photo shows a new voting machine which prints a paper record on display at a polling site in Conyers, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

(Chambersburg) --  Voter registration closed on Tuesday with a flurry of paperwork.

"We're busier than I thought we'd be," said Jennie Aines, director of voter registration. "We've been busy with new registrations."

Since the first of the year, more than 1,350 people have registered to vote in the county and another 800-plus have changed their party affiliation, according to the most recent tally from the Pennsylvania Department of State. A final tally will be available by early next week after election workers sort through the mail. Registrations that were postmarked by Tuesday will be counted in time for the Nov. 6 election.

The Republican Party lost a bit of its advantage in Franklin County, but nothing that is likely to show up in election results.

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A voter fills out his ballot on election day (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Most people registering for the first time or changing their party went Republican, but by a smaller majority than the GOP's traditional margin:

  • They registered 50 percent Republican, 34 percent Democrat and 16 percent other since the first of the year.
  • In total county registration, Republicans comprise 59 percent of voters in the county, Democrats 26 percent and other 15 percent.

Typically voters don't care too much about non-presidential elections, but for some reason there is more interest this year, Aines said.

 "I think what's going on in the news is driving a lot of interest," Aines said.

The local ballot has races for Pennsylvania governor, a U.S. Senate and the 13th Congressional District, but not a presidential race to spark interest. Local voter turnout was 44 percent in the most recent (2014) mid-term election while turnout for a president election tops 70 percent.

"In going door-to-door as we canvass, what we're hearing from people is their concern about the direction of the current administration," said Gloria Guba, chairwoman of the Franklin County Democratic Committee. "People are deeply concerned about the trend and dialogue in Washington."

She doubts that having an open congressional seat this year is driving an interest in voting. Canvassers have been informing people about the race. Republican Dr. John Joyce of Altoona and Democrat Brent Ottaway of Hollidaysburg are running for the seat currently held by retiring Rep. Bill Shuster.

The slight swing for Democrats may have its roots in the 2016 presidential election "when we had an awful lot of people switch" to Republican because of the election, according to county GOP chairman Dr. Robert Ternes.

The runup to the Trump-Clinton election saw nearly three times the number of people registering or changing party affiliation as this year's mid-term. Republicans got 56 percent of new or changed registrations, Democrats 29 percent and other 15 percent.

So far this year, 625 people have switched their affiliation to Republican and 349 to Democrat. During a similar period in 2016-- 1,597 switched to Republican and 739 switched to Democrat.

"This election cycle is coming down to one thing - get out the vote," Ternes said.  

Both parties have been working the phone banks with limited success.

"Phone banks have become a problem," Ternes said. "People tend not to answer unless they recognize the number."

Many new voter registrations have been coming through non-partisan citizens' groups in the community, Guba said.

Most people are going online to register or to change their party affiliation, according to Aines.

Franklin County currently has 92,176 registered voters - 54,661 Republicans, 24,031 Democrats and 13,484 other.

Across Pennsylvania, Democrats hold a slightly smaller edge than they had two years ago. The state registration list is 48 percent Democratic, 38 percent Republican and 14 percent other.

Absentee voter applications are due by Oct. 30. The county voter registration office in the county courthouse on Memorial Square must receive completed absentee ballots by 5 p.m. on Nov. 2.

People can apply for an absentee ballot:

  • In person at the voter registration office between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.
  • By calling 717-261-3886 or 717-261-3810.
  • By mailing a letter with your name, home address, birth date, reason for requesting an absentee ballot, address to which absentee ballot should be mailed and your signature to Voter Registration Office, 157 Lincoln Way East, Chambersburg, PA 17201 or faxing the letter to (717) 261-3131.
  • By downloading, printing and completing an application from the Department of State at www.votespa.com (Voting & Election; Types of Voting; Absentee Ballot) or from the county at www.franklincountypa.gov (General Government; Voter & Election Info.)

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Chambersburg Public Opinion

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