OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
It’s all but guaranteed that former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden will square off again in the 2024 general election. And something major is happening in a crucial swing state that could help decide the winner next November.
Some Republican officials and conservatives in Pennsylvania were not pleased when Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro instituted a new policy that automatically registered voters among those applying for driver’s licenses and state ID cards.
Some lawmakers, like Bryan Cutler, the Republican leader in the state house, have voiced displeasure that the measure was enacted outside of the proper legislative channels.
“The governor is following the sad and misguided precedent set by his predecessor that recognizes our election laws need updating and modernized, but then disenfranchises the General Assembly from exercising its constitutional prerogative to make laws,” Cutler said.
Cutler said the “unilateral action” done ahead of the hotly contested off-year elections for county leaderships and the state Supreme Court will again cause many Pennsylvania voters “to continue to question the security and results of our system.”
The state’s conservative activists were concerned that the measure would benefit the Democrats. In response, Shapiro said, “I think what it’s doing is giving an advantage to our democracy. Your registration will not be verified. We don’t give a damn about what you think about the issues.
Charlie Gerow, a former GOP candidate for governor, expressed concern that Republicans were reacting too quickly in an interview that same day.
“I think Republicans can benefit from this,” he said. “I think perhaps we should step back and look at this as an opportunity and not a disadvantage.”
As detailed by the Washington Examiner in a report, Gerow was right.
Shapiro’s auto initiative has been open for just over a month, and already 3,194 Democrats, 4,052 independents, and a massive 7,657 Republicans have signed up.
To sum up, independents registered at a rate 1,000 votes higher than Democrats, and Republicans registered at a rate twice as high as Democrats.
State Senator Dan Laughlin, a Republican from Erie County, said the data came from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and he was optimistic about the trend.
The Pennsylvania Department of State reported on October 10 that the number of registered Democrats is 446,467 higher than the number of registered Republicans, taking into account both active and inactive voters.
Data report by PoliticsPA from July indicated that Democrats had a 480,000 vote advantage over Republicans across the commonwealth.
Laughlin speculated that voters may be reacting negatively to Biden because of the Republican’s message.
“It’s important to me that voters are aware and supportive of our positions,” he said. “We as a party need to work on the issues that will make Pennsylvania a better place to live — it’s pretty simple when you really boil it down to that. We need to make Pennsylvania more competitive for business, we need to make our streets safe to walk, and we need a robust public education system.”
Since September 19 of this year, applicants for driver’s licenses have been directed to a page to register to vote via a screen prompt.
The driver has the option of registering at that time. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that the measure has been adopted by a total of 23 states and the District of Columbia.
In November, Pennsylvanians will vote for a new state Supreme Court justice, new judges to sit on the Commonwealth and Superior courts, and whether two appellate judges on the Superior court will get another term. Both parties are keeping a close eye on the results.
Municipal races, such as county executive, mayor, and school board seats, and ballot questions, will also be closely contested and serve as proving grounds for winning platforms and messages.
They will also reveal which voters are actively participating and how proficient Republicans have become at mail voting after ignoring it for two election cycles in a row.
Next year, Pennsylvania will once again be a battleground state for both parties in deciding who will be president of the United States and in one of the most competitive races for the U.S. Senate, making voter registration all the more important.
This seat will be decided in the general election between Republican businessman David McCormick and Scranton Democrat and incumbent Sen. Bob Casey Jr. in November 2024.