Online voter registration rising along with Republican, unaffiliated ranks –

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More Pennsylvanians are using online voter registration than paper forms as the number of Republican and unaffiliated/other party voters continue to surge, the Pennsylvania Department of State has told the Legislature in a new report.

Online voter registration “has made registration convenient, accurate and secure,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement on the report. “It just made sense that online registration should be the first step as we began our work to bring about much needed election reforms.”

Since the state launched online voter registration in August 2015, more than 950,000 people have used online voter registration. The report said 100,000 more voters had used the system to apply compared to paper forms.

By the end of 2016, which featured a hotly contested presidential election, there were 8.64 million registered voters in the state compared to 8.09 million a year earlier.

“Encouraging voter participation is one of most important things I do as secretary of the commonwealth,”  Secretary of State Pedro Cortes said in the statement. “With more than 858,000 users in 2016 alone, it is clear that Pennsylvania citizens recognize and welcome the ease of (online voter registration).”

According to the report, there were 4.17 million registered Democrats as of December, 31, 2016, compared to 3.28 million Republicans and 1.19 million unaffiliated/other voters.

Since 2012, those numbers reflect an 8.36 percent increase for unaffiliated/other, an additional 92,000 voters, and a 5.16 percent increase for Republicans, an additional 160,831 voters. Conversely, Democratic registration has fallen by 1.68 percent, or 71,275 fewer voters.

The average change for Pennsylvania counties since 2012 has been a 1.13 percent increase in voter registrations. Many new voters in 2016, about 285,000, used registration services available at PennDOT centers while receiving or renewing their driver’s licenses, the report said.

Lawrence County, however, has lost nearly 8 percent of its voters since 2012, putting it in the top five for the state. Leading that inauspicious list is Cameron County with -11.36 percent, followed by Indiana County (-9.74 percent), Bradford County (-9.02 percent), Blair County (-8.98 percent) and Lawrence County (-7.62 percent).

Centre County, home to Penn State University’s main campus, had the highest percentage growth during that same time with a 9.78 percent increase.

In Beaver County, Democrats still held the majority in December with 56,310 voters, but that was down from 58,756 a year earlier. Republicans, though, saw their rolls increase in the county from 35,863 in 2015 to 39,778 as of December, an 11 percent bump.

Democratic registration in Lawrence County fell slightly from 2016 to 2015 — 27,497 to 27,382 — while Republican ranks increased by 13 percent, from 20,684 in 2015 to 23,409 in 2016.

Nearly 9,800 Beaver County voters used online voter registration in 2016 to register or change addresses, names or parties while 3,428 used PennDOT centers, 3,276 did so by mail and 650 made visits to the elections office.

Almost 4,400 Lawrence County voters used online voter registration last year while mail was used by 2,549 voters, followed by 1,862 PennDOT interactions. No in-person visits were reported.