Over the past year, Johnson County’s Election Office has seen the number of unaffiliated voters rise more significantly than any other category — though the number of people switching party affiliation appears unlikely to portend any major changes in this year’s election cycle.
The total number of registered voters in the county since the inauguration of Donald Trump has jumped more than 8,600, from 387,744 in February 2017 to 396,409 last month — an increase of just over 2 percent.
The bulk of that increase has come in the form of unaffiliated voters, whose tally has risen from 112,122 a year ago to 117,697 last month, an increase of 5,575, or just under 5 percent.
During the same period, the Democratic party saw its registered voters increase from 94,477 to 96,634, a total of 2,157 voters, or about 2.3 percent.
Combined, the increases in unaffiliated and Democratic voters accounted for 89 percent of the increase in all registered voters in Johnson County the past 12 months.
While the Republican party saw the slowest percentage growth of any category, it maintains a huge advantage in the number of total registered voters. Republicans have added 637 voters to their rolls during the period, going from 177,262 in February 2017 to 177,899 last month for an increase of about three-tenths of a percent.
As a percentage, the Libertarian party saw the biggest change in its ranks over the past 12 months, with 7.6 percent growth. But that figure came from the addition of just 262 members, bringing its total to a relatively insignificant 4,179 registered voters in Johnson County.
The tallies and percentage growth figures hint that a number of voters who had been registered as Republicans early last year have switched to unaffiliated voters or Democrats. (The Election Office does not keep track of how many people officially switch party registration or move from one party to unaffiliated). But the number of people switching parties is small enough that it’s unlikely to have a major impact on this year’s elections.
Of note, to participate in this summer’s primary elections, voters will have to declare as a Republican or a Democrat. Unaffiliated voters are not permitted to cast a ballot in the Republican or Democratic party primaries.