Luzerne County picked up 1,106 more registered voters since the May primary, but the number of Democrats continued to decline, new election statistics show.
Tuesday was the last day to register for the Nov. 6 election.
As of Thursday, the county had 206,624 registered voters, compared to 205,518 in May, according to county Election Director Marisa Crispell.
The changes since May:
• Democrats lost 349 voters, for a new total count of 105,974.
• Republican registration increased 865, bringing the party’s total to 75,766 voters.
• Voters with other affiliations or no affiliation increased 590 to a new total of 24,884.
While Democrats retained their longtime lead, the GOP has been steadily gaining ground. The registration gap between the two was 31,422 in May and is now 30,208.
In 2004, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by nearly 45,000, statistics show.
Wilkes University political science professor Tom Baldino has partly attributed the county’s Republican increase to a decline in union workers and World War II generation voters historically more loyal to the Democratic party. Areas of western Pennsylvania — excluding Pittsburgh — have a similar demographic as Northeastern Pennsylvania and have been trending Republican for 20 years, the professor has said.
Crispell noted the numbers may change slightly in coming days because registration applications postmarked Tuesday must still be accepted. Unlike primaries, voters are free to select candidates of any party affiliation in the general.
The election director urges voters to apply for absentee ballots early due to a short window.
Voters have until 5 p.m. Oct. 30 to get their absentee applications into the election office. However, Crispell said the completed ballots must be returned to the office by 5 p.m. Nov. 2.
“That won’t be a lot of time if people have to wait for a ballot to arrive in the mail and then get it back to us, so we recommend they apply quickly,” Crispell said.
Starting next week, absentee voters also can avoid postal system waits by visiting the election office to fill out their ballots, which will remain sealed until they are processed on election night with other results, she said. The office is on the second floor of the county’s Penn Place Building at the corner of Market Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre.
Voters can request absentee ballots if they are unable to appear at the polls on election day due to an illness, travel or other obligation.
Crispell noted the option is available to residents who cannot be sure they will be at their polling place during voting hours due to a job commute or work obligations, including those in the emergency response field.
Absentee ballot applications are available on the election page at www.luzernecounty.org.
The county has 180 polling place precincts housed in 156 buildings.
For the upcoming general, voting locations have changed in two municipalities — Butler and Hanover townships.
The old and new Butler Township polling places:
• District 1 — township recreation building to the township community center meeting room, 411 W. Butler Drive.
• District 2 — township community center gym to the District Council 21 Painters Union Hall in the CAN DO Corporate Center, 66 Azalea Drive.
• District 3 — township community center meeting room to the District Council 21 Painters Union Hall
• District 4 — township municipal building to the township community center gym, 411 W. Butler Drive.
In Hanover Township, Ward 1 voters will switch from the Hanover Green Goodwill Hose Co. to the township Fire Headquarters Co., 1586 Sans Souci Parkway. Ward 6 voters previously at the Askam United Methodist Church will now cast ballots at the county record storage facility, 85 Young St.
This is the first election for the county’s new electronic poll books purchased from Election Systems & Software for $324,800.
Replacing paper poll books with electronic versions will allow election workers to speed up voter processing because they can instantly search a countywide database if a voter’s name does not appear on their list, Crispell said. Previously, the workers had to contact the election office for this information, often causing delays, she said.
Poll workers were trained on the new books throughout the summer, she said.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.