I have had reason in the last couple of weeks to once again peruse voter data on Lehigh County. But in recent days I also started taking a closer look at Northampton County. I have the data by precinct for Lehigh County going back a decade, but I don't have it for Northampton....yet. What I do have is registration totals for the both counties overall, and when I put them up beside each other, the similarities are not all that surprising. I am using the period from May 2003 to November 2011 because I don't have any figures for Northampton in 2012. This makes the comparison easier and somewhat cleaner, in my opinion.
In May of 2003, Lehigh County had 177,769 total registered voters
That was 78,101 Democrats
In November of 2011 Lehigh County had 214,881 total registered voters, a gain of 37,112.
That was 107,594 Democrats (+29,493)
73,857 Republicans (-1,045)
44,864 Other (+10,098)
Now initial glances at the data would have you think that Lehigh County had an invasion of Democrats migrating from the east, while Republicans were suffering from a case of fewer conservatives moving into the valley combined with a number of voters becoming unaffiliated and changing their registration to something else.
In Nov 2006 the Republicans did reach a registration total of over 80,000, but it has declined steadily at about 1,000 a year since then. I see this as an exodus of the more moderate voters. I see evidence of it in how far right the primary contests have continued to swing in results. This is exactly why the "REFORM" team won in 2011. It was a culmination of a perfect storm of electoral variables as it related to a party struggling to define itself. And an opposition party leader more focused on his own Congressional race than his local political obligations.
Now lets take a look at Northampton County
In May 2003 Northampton County had 166,779 voters (only 11,010 fewer than Lehigh)
That was 68,904 Democrats
By November of 2011, Northampton county had 201, 592 voters, (13,289 fewer than Lehigh County)
That was 99,217 Democrats (+30,313)
67,986 Republicans (+12,796)
34,389 Other (-8,284)
As in Lehigh, The Democrats in Northampton have come excruciatingly close to having 50% of the electorate registered to their party. That doesn't mean they will vote as a D, but there is a psychological edge to it.
What I find interesting is the disparity of growth in the Republican ranks in both Counties. Northampton Republicans managed to grow by more than 20% since 2003, while Lehigh County stayed more or less static. What caused that? The local leadership? the growth of the Tea party? Divisions in the Republican base between moderate and ultra conservative factions?
If you look at the two counties from a distance, you would think they are on parallel courses, but when you get close up you have to wonder.
So there are your thoughts to consider for this weekend What directions are the two main parties headed in? What is driving them? And Why are the Two counties so similar in demographic but so much different in the end electoral result?