Republican Crossovers Fuel Record Democratic Voter Registration in Pennsylvania

PA County Officials Say Several Crossovers to the Democratic Party Hope Their Switch Will Help McCain This Fall


March 26, 2008—

Republican crossovers are a key factor in record-level voter registrations for the Pennsylvania Democratic presidential primary, officials say.

State Democratic party officials touted a record-level four million registered Democratic voters in anticipation of the upcoming primary on April 22. The Philadelphia suburbs and the state's central region, including counties where Republicans still outnumber Democrats, had some of the highest proportions of party-switchers.

Bill Meck, a resident of a Philadelphia suburb, remarked that after 41 years of voting Republican, he recently registered with the Democratic party. "I wanted to be a part of the choice," said Meck.

His wife, Patsy, a longtime Democrat, points to the race's historic significance as rejuvenating political interest among Pennsylvanians, including Republicans like her husband. She joked, "It's like being in bizarro-world. For the first time since I can remember, we're on the same side."

While many of the new Democrats appear to be moderates or independents who simply want to be a part of the process, county voter registration officials in central Pennsylvania told that many new registrants spoke openly about changing their party affiliation to give McCain "a better shot in November."

Officials in Perry and Northumberland counties in central Pennsylvania told that quite a few new registrants said they were switching to help the Republican party in the fall. Both counties are historically conservative, having voted for Bush in 2004 in wide margins, but the number of voters changing their party affiliation to Democrat this year is proportionally large, said the officials.

The pattern echoes the Republican crossovers in the run-up to the Texas and Ohio primaries, which some political experts attributed to calls from conservatives like Rush Limbaugh for Republicans to register and vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton to prevent Obama from locking up the nomination and prolong the spectacle of the two Democratic candidates attacking each other.

Michael Barley, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Republican Party, says that as a party, they are not endorsing the switches, and that they are focusing on the general election and not the Democratic primary.

Keith Staskeiwicz is a freelance researcher covering the Pennsylvania primary for ABC News.

Avni Patel contributed to this report.

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