The Centre County Democrats are reporting that the county has officially turned blue, and local activists are saying student registrations have made the difference.
As of Friday, Democrats led Republicans 36,767 to 36,379 in voter registrations, with an estimated 1,500 more still to be processed, according to a Centre County Democrats press release. The release also states that the Centre County Office of Elections and Voter Registration has confirmed the county's "blue" status.
Although the new numbers are likely "a reflection of a lot of things," according to Dianne Gregg, Centre County Democrats chairwoman, student registrations are primarily responsible for the county's turning blue, she said.
"There are switches in registrations all around the county for various reasons, but it's not as big a number as the student registrations," Gregg said. "[In past presidential races] we have not seen the attention to the student voters from national campaigns that we're seeing now."
The numerous new student registrations are a result of the on-campus organizations that encouraged students to register, Gregg said. "The majority" of these students will be first-time voters, she added.
Penn State Students for Barack Obama president Mike Stewart (sophomore-political science) agreed with Gregg's assessment.
"Students are ready to be heard -- are ready to speak," he said.
College Democrats spokeswoman Samantha Miller (sophomore-political science) sees the student registration efforts as being beneficial to student interests.
"Whoever gets elected will remain accountable to the students," Miller said.
The College Republicans did not immediately return calls seeking comment yesterday.
While the closeness of the Democratic presidential primary race has many voters switching party registrations to vote in the Democratic primary, Gregg said new registrations outnumber switchers three to one.
Registered Democrats have switched over from several different parties, including the Republican Party, Gregg said, adding that Republicans are down more than 200 voters since the beginning of the year.
"I believe the county will stay blue," Gregg said. "I don't see any reason why that trend would reverse."
Pennsylvania's primary elections are April 22. The last day to register to vote in the general election is Oct. 6.
© 2008 Daily Collegian via U-WIRE