GOP gains ground in county voter rolls
October 29, 2012
Republican-rich Butler County is even richer. The Democrats are deeper in the minority in the county. Four years after the presidential candidacy of Democrat Barack Obama took the country by storm and swelled county Democratic voters rolls, times have changed. Republican voter registration this year in the county is up 4.4 percent since 2008. Democratic voter numbers, during the same period, dropped by 6.7 percent. “We’ve noticed in the last several months an increase in enthusiasm among Republicans,” said Jeff Smith, chairman of the county’s GOP committee, “so the increase in our numbers isn’t totally surprising. “But I would not have imagined it would be this drastic.” With the Oct. 9 close of registration in Pennsylvania, the Butler County Bureau of Election this past week released voter data. The 122,762 voters eligible to cast ballots in the Nov. 6 election marks a record level in the county. The previous high was in the 2008 election in which 121,730 voters were registered. The GOP voter rolls number is 62,863, said county election director Shari Brewer. That’s 2,653 more Republicans than the 60,210 registered four years ago. The 43,970 Democrats eligible to vote this year are down by 3,163 from 2008. Four years ago, there were 47,133 registered Democrats. In 2008, the breakdown of Republicans to Democrats in Butler County was 49.5 percent to 38.7 percent. This year it’s 51.2 percent Republican and 35.8 percent Democrat. The ranks of third party and unaffiliated voters also have grown from 14,387 four years ago to 15,929 now. Georgiann Kerr, chairman of the Butler County Democratic Committee, did not seem concerned with the downswing in her party’s voter rolls. She blamed the decline, in part, on a GOP misinformation campaign. “I am not alarmed by the small decrease in Democratic registration,” she said by e-mail. “I would credit the changes in registration to the enormous amount of negative and misleading Republican advertising that was part of the 2010 election cycle.” That 2010 cycle saw Republicans make gains in voter numbers in the county and across the country. “That advertising was successful, and we have endured the worst Congress since 1947. The Congress of 1947 was called the, ‘do nothing Congress,’” Kerr said. Not surprisingly, Smith had a different take on the upswing in GOP voter rolls. He sees it as a kind of referendum on Obama. “It speaks to the dissatisfaction of the president and some of his policies that people are being energized and joining our party,” Smith said. However, Kerr believed the surge in Republican registration is a temporary blip. “I am confident that these registration numbers will swing back to the Democrat now that people are aware of what an obstructionist party the Republicans are,” she said.