ERIE, Pa. - Nearly 7,000 voters either switched to or registered as Republicans in Erie County for the 2016 presidential election. But this year, that trend has slowed dramatically.

"Often in local elections what we find is that the issues that separate candidates are very few and far between," said Dr. Joseph Morris, director of Mercyhurst University's Center for Applied Politics.

Growth among both major parties has been stagnant in 2017, according to data from the Erie County Office of Voter Registration. In Erie County, Republicans have dropped from 67,496 in 2016 to 67,481 voters this year. Democrats experienced a small gain, from 96,597 to 96,708 voters between the general election cycles. 

The City of Erie, long-known for being a Democratic stronghold, still with a solid 3-to-1 Democratic majority with 40,771 registered voters for the Nov. 7 election. Republicans have 13,923 voters registered.

That's despite a pair of hotly contested races for Erie mayor, and Erie County executive.

"They can still stay their registered party that they want to be and still vote whatever way they want with whatever candidate," said Kimberly Alexander, Erie County election supervisor.

And that's why Dr. Joseph Morris of Mercyhurst University's Center for Applied Politics says we may not see the switch we saw when Donald Trump won over Erie voters, one year ago; that's due to a lack of enthusiasm in local races coupled with the voter's ability to cast a ballot across party lines in the general election. A voter must be registered under a political party to vote in their primary election, according to Pennsylvania law.

"In all likelihood, it's going to be a fairly low turnout election even though it's a really good contest," Morris said.

Morris believes the party majority may not matter as much this time around as much as the "favorability" of each candidate does.

"Voters look to the personal characteristics that candidates possess; their character, their trustworthiness," he said.

But county data shows the buzz surrounding those bigger races is growing. More than 3,300 new Erie County voters registered between this spring's primary election, and the registration deadline on Oct. 10.

"It's often about whether you can get your voters to the polls," Morris said.