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Thousands of voters across Pennsylvania have registered as Republicans in the upcoming primaries, the majority of whom are Democrats switching parties. 

Credit: Julio Sosa

Update: On Tuesday, reported that the Pennsylvania Department of State announced that the number of voters who had switched their registration to Republican was overstated due to a clerical error. The number of voters who have switched between Jan. 1 and March 28 is actually closer to 63,000, not 128,000.

How loyal are you to your political party? In Pennsylvania, it seems like many people aren’t too sure. According to a March 29 Philadelphia Inquirer article, around 128,000 voters have become registered Republicans since the beginning of the new year across the state. Most are Democrats switching to the Republican Party, but large numbers are also former independents and new voters.

“The big draw for the party switching,” local politics expert and St. Joseph’s University professor Randall Miller said, “is Donald Trump.” Miller believes that those switching to the right side want the Republican party to hear their voice. “Whether they want to say something for or against Trump is the question.”

Democratic Committee leader for the 27th Ward Carol Jenkins believes that it will only be after the election that we can understand why this massive switch is taking place. Penn is located in the 27th Ward.

“I think it’s probably an indication that people are enthused right now,” she said. “I mean the Republicans are in trouble any way you look at it.”

Jenkins’ Republican counterpart in the 27th Ward, Matthew Wolfe, said, “People really have the opportunity to make a difference on the Republican side.”

The GOP began this election with 17 candidates, and though down to three, Wolfe believes that there is still a lot of interest. As for the Democratic side, he said, “We have the most dishonest person in politics, Hillary Clinton.”

This large change in party affiliation comes in preparation for the Pennsylvania primary on April 26.

In past years, due to their late place in the election cycle, the Pennsylvania primaries were not a source of enthusiasm. Now it might mean something, especially in the way of potentially blocking Trump from gaining a majority of delegates before the Republican National Convention.Recent polling suggests that Trump could face a strong challenge from Ohio Gov. and Pennsylvania native John Kasich.

“It’s something that people who are trying to build a stronger Republican Party in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia are gleeful about,” Wolfe said.

Jenkins said, in contrast, “the problem with [those] that are enthused about a demagogue like Trump is that they have a hard time carrying through with their voting.” She is unsure that it will have any impact on the outcome.

This phenomenon could actually help the Democratic Party.

“There are some people who said that they were switching over to vote for Trump, even though they hated Trump, because they thought that he’d be the weakest candidate against Hillary Clinton,” Miller said.

Jenkins doesn’t believe she’ll see a change in her ward. “I pretty much have a high Democratic population, and they are pretty stable voters, so they are not a group of people who would change willy-nilly.”

In the 2008 Pennsylvania primary, Obama gained the nomination “down in the grassroots,” even though Jenkins said Hillary Clinton had the support of the “political operatives.” Though Bernie Sanders appeals widely to students, who maintain a great population in this ward, Jenkins said “Bernie is not going to get those voters, Hillary is going to get those voters.”

Either way, presidential elections tend to increase voter participation. Jenkins believes that because the switches are both ways, with a greater shift to the Republican Party, that it will all cancel out. Miller said there is no one true cause, but there is no doubt it’s all about Trump.

So, while there is no way to find out the actual origins of the switching phenomenon, it’s going to be a defining primary for each party.

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