Republicans in some battlegrounds left GOP after Capitol riot

Voters in Arizona, North Carolina and other states are changing registrations.

January 25, 2021, 7:36 PM

Some Republicans across the country are changing their party registrations following the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

In Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida -- states which have made some of their data publicly available -- voters were leaving the Republican Party.

"It's definitely a trend and we noticed it right after -- on the 8th or 9th -- right after the insurrection on the 6th," Consuelo Kelly, the Broward County Supervisor of Elections communications director, told ABC News on Saturday about the changes in Florida.

The numbers are minuscule in the grand scheme of things -- a few thousand voters here or there doesn't make much of a dent in the Republican Party's voter base nationwide. And some Democrats have also changed their party affiliations too, although at a lower rate. But the early numbers are raising eyebrows.

Dr. Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who studies voting and elections, told ABC News that this kind of change right after a federal election is out of the ordinary.

"It's very unusual for people to change or switch their party registrations without some incentive to do so," he said.

"The typical reason why people change their registration is there's a primary approaching and that primary is in a party-registration state, where you have to be registered with a party or as an independent. So, before an election you'll see people re-registering in order to participate in the primary in the states that have party registration," McDonald added. "It's not a typical activity for people to call up and say, 'I want to be registered as a Democrat, Republican, independent or nonpartisan.' That's a very unusual thing to be happening and reports that we're getting from election officers -- it seems like it's a thing."

Supporters of President Donald Trump flood into the Capitol Building after breaking into it on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Jon Cherry/Getty Images, FILE

In North Carolina, just over 6,000 Republicans changed their registration to unaffiliated from Jan. 6 to Jan. 19, with around 3,600 of the state's nearly 9 million registered voters making the change the week after the riot at the Capitol, according to data from the state Board of Elections. Around 530 former Republicans changed their affiliation to Democratic, and approximately 1,730 Democrats either changed or removed their party affiliation. Around 510 of those former Democrats changed to the Republican Party, while approximately 1,210 removed their party affiliation.

Throughout the entire month of December, while Republicans in Congress continued to attempt to overturn election results to prevent President Joe Biden from taking office, just over 1,900 Republicans switched their registration to unaffiliated, and around 2,000 Democrats did the same.

Following the 2016 election, the number of Republicans in North Carolina who changed their affiliations in the same time frame was just under 450.

In Arizona, a state which has steadily turned bluer over the past few election cycles, around 7,500 voters switched their registrations from the GOP to other parties or to unaffiliated since Jan. 6, according to data provided to ABC News by the Secretary of State's office on Thursday. Of those, about 5,300 of the state's over 1.5 million registered Republicans removed a designated party from their registration.

President Joe Biden won Arizona by about 10,000 votes, but in the two-month period after the election and before the insurrection, only about 4,500 Republicans switched their registrations.

Among Democrats, just over 1,600 voters have switched or removed their party registration since Jan. 6. Arizona did not track this data following the 2016 election, according to Solis. Like many other states, the office does not explicitly track this data.

Dr. Michael Hanmer, a professor in voting and participation at the University of Maryland, told ABC News that most of the changes seems to be concentrated among Republicans.

"The imbalance is something that I think is interesting to think about, given it's proven right now, it seems mostly by Republicans reacting to the events of Jan. 6," Hanmer said. "But, going forward, I think there was already this trend in place that people were dissatisfied with both parties to a large extent. And so this might accelerate that," he said of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

PHOTO: Members of the National Guard patrol a street leading to the U.S. Capitol ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Law enforcement and state officials are on high alert.
Members of the National Guard patrol a street leading to the U.S. Capitol ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Law enforcement and state officials are on high alert for potentially violent protests as Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States at today's inauguration ceremony.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Some populous areas of Florida are showing similar signs.

In Miami-Dade, the state's largest county and home to a key group of Latino voters, about 1,600 Republicans have changed their party affiliations since Jan. 6, approximately 1,120 of those removing a party affiliation and 330 of them switching to independents, according to data provided by the county board of elections on Friday. Among Democrats, the total number of switches was just under 450 -- about 280 of them removing their party affiliation. In the same time frame during 2016, about 300 Republicans changed their registration during the month of January and around 500 Democrats did the same.

From Nov. 4 to Jan. 6, approximately 630 Republicans in the county left the party, while nearly 300 switched their registration to Democrat. In the same time frame, about 950 Democrats left the party, while around 670 changed to Republican and 120 to independent.

That trend is also visible in Broward County, where nearly 1,720 Republicans switched their affiliations and the bulk of them -- 1,108 -- moved to have no party affiliation. There were just over 350 who switched to independent status and about 250 moved to the Democratic Party. Democrats had around 660 switches in the same time frame, with over 430 moving to no party affiliation and 145 joining the Republican Party. Democrats gained some voters who weren't affiliated with the party as well, with over 280 of the 584 changes going blue and about 180 joining the GOP.

The Florida Department of Elections could not provide further detail on statewide trends among the state's over 14.5 million voters.

In Pennsylvania, the secretary of state doesn't track such numbers right after a major election, according to a spokesperson. But surveys of some counties from the Associated Press are showing the same trend at that level. In Cumberland County, The AP reported earlier this month that 192 people have changed their party registration since the Jan. 6 riot. Only 13 switched to the GOP -- the other 179 changed to Democrat, independent or a third party. The numbers are miniscule compared to the 3.5 million Republicans registered in Pennsylvania.

An ABC News/ Washington Post poll, taken from Jan. 10-13 found that 69% of Americans, by a wide margin, said Republican officials should lead the party in a different direction rather than follow Trump's leadership. But just among Republicans, 60% want to continue to follow Trump -- fewer than in the past, but still marking the risk of a Trump/no Trump schism within the party. A similar question asked in 2018 found that 83% of Republicans at the time felt the same way.

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the electoral college certification on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP

A recent Quinnipiac poll found similar results: 77% say they'd like to see the Republican Party move on from Trump once he leaves office, including 53% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

McDonald said he suspects that more changes are to come, although the events over the past few weeks could amount to just a blip in terms of people switching registrations.

"It's probably the tip of the iceberg among Republicans, because other people may be upset about what's going on but they're not willing to take the time to change the party registration yet," he said. "From the big arc of history, we think well that's probably what's going to happen here is that this is just temporary. Once the fever subsides, then we'll be back to business as usual. That's one perspective that I take on myself. The other perspective is that this is something that's more long-term -- durable -- that what we're witnessing right here is more of a realignment."

This report was featured in the Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

"Start Here" offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, the ABC News app or wherever you get your podcasts.

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