Trump effect? GOP turnout in Philly surges; more Democrats stay home

More Republicans in Philadelphia voted for Donald Trump than voted at all in the 2008 presidential primary.

More Republicans in Philadelphia cast votes for Donald Trump this year than voted at all during the 2008 primary.

Sure, the GOP primary back then wasn’t exactly interesting. At the time, the Republican primary was all but wrapped up and the GOP had named Arizona Senator John McCain the presumptive Republican nominee. But Republican voter turnout in Philadelphia still significantly surged this year with more than 44,000 people — or 37 percent of registered Republicans in the city — casting ballots. That’s compared to just 21,000 Republicans (or 14 percent of those registered) who voted in the 2008 primary.

Unofficial returns show nearly 385,000 people voted in Philadelphia yesterday, meaning the citywide turnout was 37.4 percent of registered voters. On the Democratic side, 340,000 people voted, representing 42 percent of the registered Democratic voter base in Philadelphia. (Back in 2008, 429,000 Democrats cast ballots — Obama won Philly by nearly 2 to 1 margins, but Clinton won Pennsylvania).

The citywide turnout isn’t as high as it was in 2008 when 46 percent of voters cast ballots, but the Democratic race between now-President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was closer than the Democratic primary race this year between Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Democratic race has a high impact on citywide turnout, as voter registration in Philly is nearly 8 to 1 Democrat to Republican.

It’s hard to say just why so many more Republicans in Philadelphia came out to vote this spring compared to 2008. It likely has to do with the competitive nature of this year’s GOP primary. But some analysts have said Trump’s candidacy drove up voter registration and turnout at polls across America, as his divisive nature has caused voters to either passionately support — or deny — his candidacy for the White House.

Statistics from the Dept. of State show more than 4,200 Philadelphians switched their voter registration from Democrat to Republican this calendar year and another 1,300 from another party to Republican. Philadelphia also saw a surge of Republican voters registering this year via the state’s new online voter registration system. More than 6,500 new Republicans registered via that system this year, more than any other county in the state, save for our neighbors in Montgomery.

Citywide, voter turnout at 37 percent isn’t great compared to past presidential primary years — but it’s still higher than the 27 percent of voters who bothered to cast a ballot in the mayoral primary last May.

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