Luzerne County has picked up 4,000 more voters since the April 26 primary, and thousands more are expected due to a statewide registration drive, county Election Director Marisa Crispell said Wednesday.
A total 1.137 million postcards will be sent to unregistered voters across the state in two waves this month as part of an effort to increase access to voter registration — including 67,200 postcards to Luzerne County residents, according to state announcements.
The state projects an average 5 percent of postcard recipients will register, which would add another 3,360 voters in the county, Crispell said. A 13-percent response would add 8,730 voters, state data says.
Additional registrations also may result from a new voter registration text messaging service the state launched this month, which allows citizens to receive a link to an online registration application and other information by texting “PA” to “2Vote” (28683) on their smartphones, Crispell said.
Around 2 million eligible Pennsylvanian residents are not registered to vote, the state said.
As of Wednesday, the county had 198,652 registered voters, a 2-percent increase from the primary’s 194,659 registration.
Registration has increased across the board, although voters are free to select candidates from any political party in the general election.
According to statistics from Crispell:
• Democrats picked up 609 voters since April, for a new total of 106,096.
• Republicans gained 2,181 voters, with 70,784 now registered.
• Another 1,203 voters with no affiliation or other affiliations were added, bringing the total in that category to 21,772.
• The overall voter count already is 4,515 higher than it was for the November 2012 presidential election. However, there were more Democrats — 110,911 — registered in 2012 and fewer Republicans — 63,942.
Crispell expects the turnout to be at least as high as it was in the 2012 general, or 65 percent, on Nov. 8. The turnout was 73.5 percent in the 2008 presidential election.
Seasonal election workers are being summoned to work earlier than usual to help process registration applications and answer phones, Crispell said.
Judges of election in the county’s 180 voting districts were asked to alert Crispell if they believe additional voting machines will be needed for the general election. Three have requested them to date, she said.
“We have spare machines, and they know the primary turnout and whether or not the lines were flowing,” Crispell said.
Crispell also plans to request volunteers from area colleges and universities to assist with preliminary processing at busier polling places. For example, volunteers could check to verify if people are registered in poll books while they’re waiting in line to make sure they are at the correct location, she said.
The election office also has requested Spanish translators from the nonprofit Hazleton Integration Project to help poll workers and voters who don’t speak English, particularly in Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre, Crispell said.
These translators won’t be needed around voting machines because the county offers the option for ballots in Spanish, she said.
Crispell expressed cautious optimism the increased registration will boost participation in 2017, when many local races will be on the ballot. The county has wrestled with turnouts below 20 percent in primaries.
“We want people to vote, not just register,” she said.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.