A showdown of the Toms is driving a voter registration increase in York County, whose native son Tom Wolf is the top Democrat competing for a chance to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
Monday is the last day to register for the May 20 primary, which is closed to independents. Democrats and Republicans can only vote for candidates with their same party affiliation, and Wolf's high-profile candidacy is boosting Democratic registration with people who want the York businessman to win the primary so he can oppose Corbett in November, according to the county's top election official.
As of Wednesday, there were 270,222 registered voters in York County, up from about 267,800 after voter files were updated in July. The number of Republicans fell by 56, from 130,714 in July to 130,658 on Wednesday, while the number of Democrats grew by 1,058, from 96,680 to 97,738.
County elections director Nikki Suchanic said the migration from GOP to Democratic started months ago and continues as voters call her office saying they want to change parties "to vote for Tom Wolf.'"
She's expecting the Democratic increase to continue until Monday's deadline, she said.
Suchanic's office hasn't tracked the locations of voters who are making the switch, but she said she expects registration and turnout to be considerably higher in East Manchester Township and other municipalities near Wolf's Mount Wolf residence.
The borough is named for Wolf's family, which has lived in the area for generations.
People across the county also know the local businessman personally or by reputation, said local Democratic Party chair Bob Kefauver.
"I think the enthusiasm for Tom (Wolf) is just a clear indication of his strength as a candidate," Kefauver said. "Turnout in this year's primary is going to be driven by the Toms."
Republican Party chair Bob Wilson said Wolf's candidacy was expected to drive Democratic numbers.
"Tom Wolf is well-liked, regardless of whether you like his policies," Wilson said. "He's a hometown guy, and people want to vote for the hometown guy."
Wilson said he doubts all of those who switched to Democratic will keep the affiliation after the primary.
Other factors: Voter turnout in the 2010 primary, the last gubernatorial primary, was about 28 percent, Suchanic said.
In 2010, 33 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of Democrats turned out, but Suchanic said Wolf's candidacy could increase Democratic numbers and the May 20 primary should meet or exceed the 2010 turnout.
Other high-profile races could also compel voters, she said. There's an open seat left in the 93rd House, where incumbent Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, is not running for re-election. There's also competition for the open 169th House seat, which just moved to York County because of redistricting, she said.
This primary is the first county-wide election to employ the new redistricting maps, and Suchanic said there could be some confusion as many voters are no longer located in the same House or Senate districts.
During a March 18 special election in the 28th Senate District, some voters who didn't realize the switch had been made called Suchanic's office after "showing up at their polling place and wanting to know why their polling place was not open."
Details: While the Democratic increase amounted to about 1 percent, the number of independent voters in York has increased by 3.5 percent since July. Independents jumped by 1,415, from 40,384 to 41,799, though they can't cast ballots in the primary.
Voter registration forms are available at the York County Board of Elections, York County Administrative Center, 28 E. Market St. or at https://yorkcountypa.gov/voting-elections.html. Click on "Forms."
Forms must be returned to the elections office by 4:30 p.m. Monday, or postmarked on or before Monday.
— Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.