Updated on Oct. 11, at 5:15 p.m.
There’s just one more day until the state’s voter registration deadline. The Pennsylvania Department of State estimates that there are nearly 2.3 million residents who are eligible to vote, but haven’t registered.
We asked the Department of State for data on where these Pennsylvanians are, by county. The DoS shared with us the numbers they use for their own mailers to encourage registration. Mailers were sent out in two waves, starting last month. Department of State press secretary Wanda Murren says it’s too early to tell if their efforts made a serious dent in the numbers. “We’ll have a much better idea when the voter registration figures are certified,” she said in an email. “That isn’t likely to happen until two or three weeks after the deadline because the counties will still be processing the great number of applications that are received in the final days.”
We’ll be updating this post with more insights and graphics as we continue to crunch the data. Unsurprisingly, Philly and Allegheny counties had the highest counts of unregistered voters by far. They were followed by Montgomery, Lancaster and Bucks.
Unregistered voters in PA, by county
We ran the numbers again, this time against Census data for county voting age population, or every citizen over the age of 18. Nearly a quarter of eligible Philadelphians aren’t participating in the electorate, but that’s actually mid-range for the state. Rural counties had the heaviest contingents, the leaders being Pike, Monroe, Fayette, McKean and Lebanon counties.
Percentage of unregistered voters out of eligible voters overall
Experts have cited various factors to explain low voter turnout, from slow-to-modernize voter registration systems, to distrust in government, to state policies that bar felons from the polls.
Sean McElwee, a policy analyst at Demos, was surprised that the highest percentages were seen in more rural areas. He said the best solutions to increase voter registration would be automatic pre-registration at DMVs, delaying registration deadlines, and allowing same-day registration altogether.
Monroe County Director of Elections and Voter Registration Sara-May Silfee questioned the numbers. Our analysis of Department of State and Census showed her county had the second-highest percentage of unregistered voters in the state; nearly a third of eligible residents haven’t signed up there. “A lot of people who got those mailers from the lovely Department of State were already registered. And they’re mailing people who aren’t citizens,” said Silfee. “People are coming in here and saying they’re not registered and panicking, and they’re registered.”
Still, she continued, “It surprises me, but it doesn’t.” The Poconos saw high numbers as region; nearby Pike County had the highest percentage overall. Many locals have multiple residences (vacation homes) or are relatively new residents and commute to work in New Jersey or New York, she explained.