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Republicans see strategic voter registration gains across the state, could be impactful in 2022

Mel Evans

On today’s episode of The Confluence: An analysis of voter registration shows Republicans could have an edge on Democrats in years to come; the executive director of Women for a Healthy Environment explains how a new ordinance introduced in city council aims to detect and remove lead in homes before exposure; and Pittsburgh City Clerk Brenda Pree is looking to create a statewide professional association for those in the profession that she describes as the jack-of-all-trades in local government.

Pennsylvania Democrats' voter registration shrink which could impact 2022 midterms
(0:00 - 8:04)

Pennsylvania Republicans made strategic gains in voter registration across the state. While both Republicans and Democrats saw a decrease in voter registration since June, Democrats saw a larger decrease compared to Republicans.

It’s unclear if these changes will have a significant impact in municipal and county contests on Tuesday, it could next year.

“After January 6, there were a few reports about Republicans leaving the party or Democrats gaining, so I wanted to track that and it was kind of mixed,” explains Nick Field, correspondent for Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

Field says the party out of power tends to gain more voters in the following year, which in this case, sets up the Republicans for potentially regaining power in the U.S. House and Senate during midterm elections next year.

Field reports in eleven Southwestern Pennsylvania counties, Republicans made gains in voter registration.

“You can see it in important counties that are bellwethers, there usually is Republican growth, and there is right now and there has been over the summer,” says Field. “Counties like Erie, or North Hampton are both Trump-Biden counties: Counties that Trump won in 2016 and Biden won in 2020, so they’re good indicators of how the state might go.”

Field says Pennsylvania will likely be closely watched next year with an open U.S. Senate and governors race.

“I would be surprised if Pennsylvania’s 2022 races aren’t the most competitive in the nation, and the most watched in the nation.”

Pittsburgh expanded regulations to address lead exposure
(8:07 - 15:53)

This week, Pittsburgh City Council will be consideringa proposal for the development of a plan to further address lead contamination and poisoning.

Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director of Women for a Healthy Environment, says it’s important to remember lead exposure causes lasting damages, and there are no safe levels of lead.

She says this law would take a comprehensive approach to lead safety, approaching the issue from the four pillars, which are common sources of lead poisoning: Paint, dust, soil, and water.

“We know that this is also an environmental justice issue of which we have to take quick action. So what we need to do is think about how to prevent lead exposure from all the sources across the city and stop that in its tracks before children are harmed,” she says.

The legislation would require routine inspections of rental homes that were built prior to 1978, and additionally, it would require that private and city demolitions have a lead-safe plan for the work.

Pittsburgh City Clerk looks to create statewide association for mentorship, training 
(15:56 - 22:30)

Pennsylvania could have a statewide association of municipal clerks by next spring, and while almost every local government outpost in the state has a clerk to help with the day-to-day duties, there isn’t a central group to assist with training or mentorship.

Brenda Pree, Pittsburgh’s city clerk, says that in spite of the essential nature of their work, municipal clerks are often overlooked.

“We're actually the record holders, the keepers of all things city of Pittsburgh or any municipality,” says Pree.

Pree says city clerks are often the “first face” that people come across in the city. She acts as a link, she says, between the citizens of Pittsburgh and elected representatives, whether she’s fielding calls from citizens to the correct official or setting up a council person’s agenda.

She says one goal of this association is to assist municipal clerks, making their jobs easier and more efficient to complete.

“We have clerks being appointed every day to absolutely have no idea what this job is,” she says. “So where does that person go? Who do they call?”

Another goal of the association, she says, is to certify municipal clerks on the state and international level.

“We're hoping with this institute that we're able to make sure that the bureaus are addressed, that the small cities are addressed, that the large cities are addressed, that the second class cities are addressed, so there will be training structure for all levels,” says Pree.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.\

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