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Democrats, Republicans are a 50-50 split in Chautauqua County

You might say that when it comes to politics, voters in Chautauqua County just can’t make up their minds.

Or you can certainly surmise that Republicans and Democrats now consider Chautauqua a toss-up.

And how about those rumors that the county’s new official color is purple?

It all makes sense after the Chautauqua County Board of Elections issued its official party registration numbers on Monday. Final score: Democrats, 26,057; Republicans, 26,057.

Right down the middle. As bipartisan as it gets.

“I expected it would be close, but certainly not 50-50,” said Democratic Elections Commissioner Norman P. Green. “It’s just even-steven.”

And his GOP counterpart, Brian C. Abram, says the board has never encountered anything like such a split before in its total registration of 77,628.

“I can’t imagine the odds of the Republicans and Democrats being absolutely tied for 2017,” he said.

But the numbers don’t lie, and Green said he saw it coming months ago when Republican Donald J. Trump triumphed in Chautauqua County’s presidential voting.

“In the old days Chautauqua was overwhelmingly Republican,” he said, but noted its urban areas and college campuses have tended to even things out in recent years.

“When Barack Obama was elected, we became a Democratic county and stayed that way for the next eight years,” he added. “But the rural counties of the United States are becoming more conservative, and this year it evened out at 50-50.”

Green noted that Chautauqua almost always picks the winning presidential candidate, just as it did in 2016 with Trump. So as Republicans and Democrats go, he says candidates should consider putting time and resources into the state’s southwestern turf.

“In Chautauqua County, a Democrat can get elected just as much as a Republican,” he said.

And for that matter, a Republican as much as a Democrat.

Both sides knew that party registration would prove close when the final numbers were reported last week, Green said, and they offered the same reaction when they were tallied:

“Unbelievable."

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