More women registering to vote in Pa. since Roe reversal, changing political dynamic

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

The Supreme Court's decision eliminating a woman's right to an abortion could have a major impact on the Nov. 8 election.

According to consulting firm TargetSmart, 56% of Pennsylvanians who have registered since the June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade are women, outpacing men by about 12%.

"Amongst those newly registered female voters, 62% of them are Democratic compared to 15% Republican," the Democrat-aligned consulting firm stated. "Even more, 54% of them are under the age of 25. Comparatively, 41% of new male registrants are under the age of 25, with 43% Democratic and 28% Republican."

It's a story playing out across the country in battleground states.

Kansas, TargetSmart CEO Tom Bonler told Vox, saw women account for a staggering 69% of newly registered voters after the ruling.

In Pennsylvania, voters don't have to provide their gender when registering, so the exact gender split isn't known. TargetSmart says they pull their data from state and local election administrators as well as using public data.

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However, political analyst G. Terry Madonna, who has decades of experience polling voters and covering elections at Franklin & Marshall College and Millersville University, agrees Pennsylvania woman are highly motivated this election season.

"Roe v. Wade is particularly driving women voters," he said.

Locally: Since the May 17 primary, 25,525 new voters have registered across Pennsylvania, according to Department of State data. There's now 8,763,958 registered voters in the state.

In York County, 308,725 voters were registered as of Sept. 6. That's an increase of 2,187 since the May primary.

Republicans picked up 1,075 in the latest numbers for the county, while Democrats added 558. As of Sept. 6, 503 Republicans had switched their affiliation to the Democratic party while 1,277 Democrats switched to the Republican party.

Neither the Democratic Party of York County nor the York County GOP responded to requests for comment.

Madonna said the registration trends are changing the dynamics of the upcoming vote.

"If we were having this discussion even as early as June, maybe even July, it looked like Republicans might win the House. It looked like they might even pick up three or four Senate seats," he said.

Now, it appears Democrats may pick up multiple seats in the evenly divided Senate, where the party holds the majority because of Vice President Kamala Harris' votes as president of the chamber.

Turnout in the general election is likely to be substantial, Madonna said.

Statewide races: Pennsylvania, which has always been a battleground state, will elect a new governor and U.S. senator in the Nov. 8 general election.

Both races have involved discussion on abortion and women's right to choose. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro's ads have sought to paint Republican nominee Doug Mastriano as "too extreme" for Pennsylvania, noting his opponent would ban abortion without exceptions.

In the Senate race, Democratic nominee John Fetterman has made his support for a woman's right to choose clear, including in a York City campaign stop days before the primary in May.

"You will never pick up your phone or newspaper and be like 'What? Fetterman says the minimum wage is OK as is? Roe v. Wade, well it was good for 50 years, let's move on.' Never," Fetterman said in May. 

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His Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz, has been harder to pin down. In a tele-town hall in May, Oz said life starts at conception and that abortion is murder.

At a recent Philadelphia news conference, however, Oz said he would support exceptions for incest and rape and that he did not support criminal penalties for doctors or women regarding abortion.

Changes: Other Republican candidates also are trying to moderate their abortion positions for the November election. Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, for example, scrubbed his campaign website of his support of a "federal personhood law" and released a video in which he took a more moderate position.

Mastriano has scrubbed his online posts of some controversial positions he's taken in the past. For instance, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported his gubernatorial campaign website no longer mentions abortion on the home page, where "protecting life" was previously listed first among his campaign priorities. 

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Right now, however, one can't rule out that something else might occur to drive voter registration, Madonna said. 

"Our politics are very volatile right now," he said. 

Polls have consistently shown both Shapiro and Fetterman with leads against their Republican opponents.

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election is Oct. 24. The last day to request a mail-in ballot is Nov. 1, and mail-in ballots must be returned to the elections office by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.