State's voters decrease
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 23:10
Less than a week away from the 2012 Presidential Election, the number of registered voters in Pennsylvania is down in comparison to the 2008 general election.
According to state data as of Oct. 22, 8,487,093 voters are registered for this year’s election , which is down from the 8,744,588 registered in 2008.
The deadline to register for this year’s election was Oct. 9.
The number of registered voters has decreased, with the Democrats facing a larger decrease, losing 228,742 registered voters.
Pat Dunham, chair of Duquesne’s political science department, said she thinks much of the decline in registered voters is because the circumstances of the 2008 election created more excitement.
“2008 was very historic in that we had an African-American nominee for president and a woman running on the Republican ticket for vice president and while we still have an African-American president on the ballot, it is not quite so historic the second time around,” Dunham said.
Dunham also said with an incumbent running for the presidency, interest is bound to decline somewhat.
Tim Joyce, press secretary for state Senator James Brewster (D-McKeesport), agreed with Dunham, and said that a lot of decrease in enthusiasm is related to Obama running for a second term.
“There’s enthusiasm that comes with a first time candidate,” Joyce said. “This enthusiasm encouraged the African-American community, a number of college students all to vote. It was a one-time, almost magical effect with the candidate.”
State Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline) thinks the Democratic Party’s feeding off the excitement of a new candidate was vital in the rise of registered voters in 2008. It allowed the Democratic Party to target potential younger voters, he said.
“The excitement level was extreme in comparison to today,” Fontana said. “We are not seeing the grass roots efforts like we did in 2008 by the Obama campaign.”
Both Fontana and Joyce think one of the ways to increase voter registration, and voter turnout, is for Pennsylvania to employ the option of early voting. According to the National Conference of State Legislature, 32 states and the District of Columbia allow for qualified voters to “cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day.”
“New folks register then don’t vote again,” Fontana said. “To remedy that, the state should go to early voting … give people more opportunity.”
Fontana also said that the convenience of early voting has not only worked in previous elections, but would encourage more people to vote.
With so many other states utilizing early voting, Joyce said he does not understand why Pennsylvania would not allow it.
“[Early voting] absolutely would help,” Joyce said. “The technology is in place, voting would be easier and more convenient. The ability should be taken advantage of.”
Dunham said the slight decrease is still relatively high.
“In 2008, we had a turnout around 60 percent and, frankly, we hadn’t had a turnout in a general election like that since 1960,” Dunham said. “For a long time after 1960, we had a slide in voter turnout in presidential elections where we were barely getting half of those eligible to vote, to vote.”
State senator Randy Vulakovich (R-Shaler) said the decrease might have to do with voters feeling disconnected from the process due to present economic condition.
“First-time voters are disillusioned with how things worked out,” Vulakovich said.
Vulakovich also said that should not be an excuse for voters to not want to vote, but instead, motivate them to vote even more.
“It’s the wrong attitude to take,” Vulakovich said. “That’s when you want to come out and make a difference.”