The Northampton County courthouse is in Easton, Pennsylvania. Northampton County is an important indicator of how Pennsylvania will vote in a general election.(Courtesy of Jimmy Emerson via Creative Commons)

Past election data in Northampton County show why county is critical to 2020 race


With the upcoming presidential election less than two months away, Northampton County’s past election data can help explain why the county has been known as a bellwether in years past.

Northampton County’s vote has been a good indicator of how Pennsylvania ends up swinging because the county is seen as a microcosm of the state. The similarities are apparent from the geographical layout of the county to its racial demographics.

Graphic by Ryder Griffith/B&W Staff

Because Pennsylvania is a swing state, the work being done to register voters and energize residents is paramount in both the results for the county and state — and, ultimately, who gets to the magic 270 electoral votes.

Matthew Munsey, the chairman of the Northampton County Democrats, spoke about his work in the county and how close the past few elections have been in Pennsylvania.

“We are going to be competitive,” Munsey said. “We are going to fight for every last vote.”

The Northampton County Republicans did not return a request for comment.

In terms of presidential elections, registered voter turnout from 2012 to 2016 increased by roughly 7 percent. The increase coincided with a roughly 10,000-vote increase for the Republican candidate from 2012 to 2016 in the county, according to Northampton County election data. President Donald Trump won the county over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by about 5,500 votes — propelling him to capture Pennsylvania by about 1 percentage point.

By contrast, Mitt Romney lost Northampton County in 2012 to then-President Barack Obama by about 6,000 votes. Obama went on to win Pennsylvania. 

In odd numbered years, when the county votes in local elections, since 2011, registered voter turnout has increased from roughly 18 percent to 28 percent. In the last two senatorial elections, turnout increased from roughly 38 percent to 56 percent of registered voters, county data shows. 

Amy Cozze, chief registrar of Northampton County’s election division, believes turnout numbers will continue to rise.

“I expect moving forward that our turnouts in every election will be higher,” Cozze said. “(Residents) have the option to be a permanent mail-in voter, which already about 35,000 Northampton County residents have opted to be, so they’re going to get ballots for elections that they may never have voted in before.” 

What does it mean to vote in Northampton County for this upcoming presidential election?

 In the past, Northampton County’s vote has foreshadowed the results of the presidential election in Pennsylvania. However, winning Northampton County does not imply that the state has automatically been won.

 For Lehigh University students who live in non-swing states, voting anywhere in Pennsylvania means that your vote has more of an impact on who may eventually win the election. This is a point that Albert Wurth, associate professor of political science, believes is important for students to understand.

 “I always tell my students, ‘Change your registration to Pennsylvania,’” Wurth said. “It is hard to be in a more important place nationwide for the presidential election.”

Important voting deadlines 

Oct. 19: Pennsylvania voter registration deadline

Oct. 27: Applications for voting by mail-in or absentee ballot in Pennsylvania must be received by your county election office

Nov. 3: General election

To register to vote in Pennsylvania online, click here.

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  1. Why should Lehigh students vote in Bethlehem when they are here for only 4 yrs. This cancels out the votes of long term residents who have a long term vested interest in their homes and community?

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