January 29, 2021
More than 30,000 voters who had been registered members of the Republican Party have changed their voter affiliation in in the weeks since January 6, when a mob of pro-Trump supporters attacked the Capitol — an issue that led the House to impeach the former president for inciting the violence, The Hill reports.
The massive wave of defections is a virtually unprecedented exodus that could spell trouble for a party that is trying to find its way after losing the presidential race and the Senate majority.
It could also represent the tip of a much larger iceberg: The 30,000 who have left the Republican Party reside in just a few states that report voter registration data, and information about voters switching between parties, on a weekly basis.
Voters switching parties is not unheard of, but the data show that in the first weeks of the year, far more Republicans have changed their voter registrations than Democrats. Many voters are changing their affiliation in key swing states that were at the heart of the battle for the White House and control of Congress.
Nearly 10,000 Pennsylvania voters dropped out of the Republican Party in the first 25 days of the year, according to the secretary of state’s office. About one-third of them, 3,476, have registered as Democrats; the remaining two-thirds opted to register with another party or without any party affiliation.
By contrast, about one-third as many Pennsylvania Democrats opted to either join the Republican Party (2,093 through Monday); or to register with no party, or a minor party (1,184).
Almost 6,000 North Carolina voters have dropped their affiliation with the GOP. Nearly 5,000 Arizona voters are no longer registered Republicans. The number of defectors in Colorado stands north of 4,500 in the last few weeks. And 2,300 Maryland Republicans are now either unaffiliated or registered with the Democratic Party.
In all of those areas, the number of Democrats who left their party is a fraction of the number of Republican defectors, The Hill notes.
Several local elections offices in Florida reported a surge in registration changes in the days after the assault on the Capitol. Two counties in the Miami area reported a combined 1,000 Republicans registering under other labels in just the two days after the January 6 attack. In those same two days, only 96 Democrats switched parties.
Three counties in the Tampa Bay area reported more than 2,000 Republican voters registering under some other party’s banner. In those same three counties—Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas—just 306 Democrats switched their affiliations.
So many voters switching parties absent a pending deadline has piqued the interest of elections experts. Most people tend to stick with the party with which they initially register, and those who do change are usually motivated by a looming primary election.
“Usually, absent a primary election that would induce people to switch parties so that they could participate in that primary, you don’t see much activity in party registration,” said Michael McDonald, a voting and elections expert at the University of Florida.
McDonald told The Hill that id those who would take the proactive step to change their registration are likely to be well-informed voters who both follow the news and are aware of the process by which they would change their actual registration.
“These people who are doing this activity, they are likely very sophisticated voters. They’re highly participatory, most likely,” he said. “If you’re sophisticated enough to change your party registration, you’re somebody who’s likely to vote.”
Research contact: @thehill