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Voter registration figures dip in Western Pennsylvania

Wes Venteicher
| Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, 6:24 p.m.

The number of registered voters in Western Pennsylvania dropped slightly in 2017, bucking predictions that Donald Trump's election might inspire Republicans or reinvigorate Democrats.

Registrations decreased by about 1 percent from last year across Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties, according to Pennsylvania Department of State data. The information was updated Tuesday, the last day people could register in advance of local elections Nov. 7.

While the numbers were relatively flat, party officials say they are seeing changes in people who are already registered.

“There is more engagement with those who have already been registered but not active. They're becoming active,” said Westmoreland County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Lorraine Petrosky.

In Westmoreland County, Democratic registrations dropped about 2 percent, to 111,252 people.

The county committee is divided into nine districts. Just four of them were active last year, Petrosky said. This year, eight are holding regular meetings. She expected to see 40 to 60 people at a committee meeting Thursday in North Huntingdon. There weren't any committee meetings there last year, she said.

More Democratic candidates have stepped forward to run for school board seats and positions such as district attorney, coroner and common pleas judge, and many of them are younger than 40, Petrosky said.

Many of the newly involved say the last election shook them into action, she said.

“Some of them were scared; some of them thought, ‘I didn't do enough during this election, I want to do more in the next one,' ” she said.

Republican registrations in the district continued on an upward trend, increasing a half-percent. The county now includes 104,426 registered Republicans.

Registrations surged last year as county residents came out to support Trump. He received 64 percent of the vote here, compared to Hillary Clinton's 33 percent.

“The Donald Trump phenomenon really overcharged our registration last year,” Westmoreland County Republican Committee Chairman Michael Korns said.

Trump voters remain active in the county and are working to boost support for him, Korns said.

“In my dealings with voters in Westmoreland County, they do support the president. The only feedback I ever get back from them is that Republicans, particularly Republicans in Washington, need to do more to support him,” Korns said.

Korns said he expects the party to do well in the upcoming local elections, comparing it to a similar cycle in 2013. The local GOP's emphasis is knocking on doors and informing people about candidates in local races, he said.

“This is a real back-to-basics, grassroots campaign, trying to get every day some targets for how many doors we're going to hit,” he said.

So far this year in Westmoreland County, 1,072 Democrats switched parties to become Republican while 386 Republicans switched to Democrat, records show. About 29,000 voters are registered without party affiliation.

Registrations also were flat in Allegheny County, where Democratic registrations dropped seven-tenths of a percentage point to 535,904 voters and Republican registrations dropped a half-percentage point to 258,216 voters.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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