As the May 6 primary approaches, there’s movement afoot among some registered Orange County voters.

Back in November 2013, there were 17,500 Republicans registered in Orange County. Today, there are 17, 473.

There were 52,400 Democrats registered back then, and now there are 52,318.

And while there were 34,900 unaffiliated Orange County voters late last year, now there are 35,430.

You may have noticed that only one of those classifications is seeing any growth.

Orange County Board of Elections Director Tracy Reams, who supplied the new numbers to WCHL on March 31st, said she’s noticed some things about people switching their registrations to “unaffiliated” lately.

“It’s mostly Republicans,” she said. “And I think that what they’re looking at is the opportunity to vote within the Democratic primary, to vote for the sheriff’s race. That’s what we’re hearing when they come in.”

It’s fairly easy to do. If a Republican would like to vote in a Democratic primary race, they would need to either register as a Democrat, or as an unaffiliated voter. The deadline to change party affiliation is Friday, April 11.

Voters who’d like to change back to their old party affiliation after May 6 have until October 17 to do so.

There’s a reason Republicans have special interest in voting for a Democratic candidate on May 6. Whoever wins the six-way Democratic primary race for Orange County Sheriff will have the job. That’s because there are no Republicans running.

Andy Cagle, the owner of Cagle’s Corner Grading, Hauling and Septic Systems in Efland, is one of the candidates:

“I think the sheriff’s race should be a non-partisan race,” he says, “because the sheriff has to serve as a non-partisan.”

In recent years, Cagle changed his own party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. Another candidate, Hillsborough Police veteran Buddy Parker, did the same thing.

Here’s what Parker had to say about that, back in February:

“It has nothing to do with the race. It’s a personal decision. I’d like leave it at that.”

That may well be in both cases. But one Democratic opponent, retired Orange County Sheriff’s Major of Operations Charles Blackwood, pointed out a reality that he considers well-embedded in Orange County politics.

“I can only tell you what history has proven,” he says. “And that is, over the years, it was difficult, if not impossible, for a Republican to carry that office.”

While stopping short of calling for a non-partisan sheriff’s race, Blackwood agrees with Cagle that political affiliation has nothing to do with the job of sheriff.

He also told WCHL that’s he’s confident about Republican support for his candidacy. Blackwood recently posted on his Facebook page some words of encouragement for Republican voters to change affilation for the May 6 primary.