A recently released study analyzing Pennsylvania voters shows that unmarried women, people of color and young people between the ages of 18 and 29 hold the 2014 midterm elections in the palms of their hands.
These demographic groups comprise the Rising American Electorate (RAE), and they also played a critical role in the 2012 elections. The largest group, unmarried women, makes up 524,000 of these Pennsylvania “drop-off” voters. According to the report, around 881,000 of PA’s RAE voters could choose to stay home this year, instead of visiting the polls. Such a substantial absence in the voting booths could be absolutely make-or-break for some seats.
“There’s no need for candidates to repeat the 2010 midterm elections, when RAE voters from around the country didn’t show at the polls and of all the unmarried women who could have voted, only 38% did,” said Page Gardner, president of the non-profit and non-partisan Voter Participation Center. “If candidates address the pocketbook issues that matter to them the most, they will motivate Pennsylvania’s unmarried women voters – and the larger RAE – to turn out on Election Day.”
To give an idea of how effective this drop-off can be, it is important to look at the 2010 elections and do some comparisons. Then, PA cast a total of 4.1 million votes, according to the Voter Participation Center. This report shows that combining that potential RAE drop-off of 881,000 with the approximate 729,000 other PA voters who will likely choose to stay home, a total of over 1.6 million votes could not end up getting cast this year.
Drop-off from the last election cycle in 2012 remains a significant issue, especially as the May primaries quickly approach. The Cook Political Report lists several PA races as some of the most competitive in the country. These include Governor Tom Corbett fighting to keep his governorship, the PA-6 race where candidates are battling it out for the seat of retiring Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Chester), and the PA-8 race where Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) hopes to remain an incumbent for the next cycle.
As anyone who pays attention to the news is aware of, a huge backing from RAE voters helped President Barack Obama get re-elected in 2012. This led the Republicans into vowing not quite revenge, but to broaden their base and appeal to more voters. In fact, in October 2013 the Republican National Committee reminded its supporters to constantly engage with voters, “especially in Hispanic, African American and Asian Pacific communities.”
So, with a decent amount of neck-and-neck races in the state legislature, it’s fair to say that the aforementioned large RAE voter population could have quite the effect in the coming election cycle.
“While we always see a reduction in voter turnout during mid-terms, the differences between 2010 and 2006 were dramatic in terms of who dropped-off and the subsequent election results,” said Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research Partners. “The candidates that addressed the issues of the RAE and unmarried women succeeded at higher rates than those that did not. In Pennsylvania, the effect of unmarried women turnout could determine the strength of the delegation in state legislative body as well as control within the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.”