Northumberland County voters value their independence - and their right to "split" their tickets on election day.

In the last 50 years, Northumberland County has gone Democrat in nine of 13 elections for county commissioner. The Shamokin-Mount Carmel area had a Democratic state representative for 32 of those years.

But when it comes to voting for president, Northumberland County has remained a reliably "red" county in a state that, for the last 20 years, has appeared in blue on election night maps.

The last time Pennsylvania's electoral votes went to a Republican presidential candidate was 1988, when the Keystone State picked George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis.

The last time Northumberland County supported a Democratic presidential candidate, however, was 1964, giving Lyndon B. Johnson 62 percent of its vote against Barry Goldwater. In doing so, Northumberlandians mirrored the mood of the nation, which re-elected Johnson in a landslide.

A bit of history

In the early 20th century, Pennsylvania was a Republican stronghold, supporting GOP presidential tickets from 1900 through 1932 (even for Herbert Hoover's re-election), with the exception of 1912, when the state went for former President Theodore Roosevelt, normally a Republican, as a third-party candidate. The state voted to re-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, 1940 and 1944, then went for Republicans Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 over President Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 over Adlai Stevenson.

The Northumberland County electorate voted as the state did when it supported Johnson in 1964, Richard M. Nixon in 1972, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 and Bush in 1988.

John F. Kennedy lost Northumberland County by almost 11 percent in 1960, and Hubert H. Humphrey only garnered 40 percent of the vote here in 1968. In those elections, Kennedy and Humphrey won the state's electoral votes. George McGovern lost here in a landslide in 1972, again mirroring the national results.

In 1976, Pennsylvania went for Jimmy Carter over President Gerald Ford, and Carter came within one percent point of beating Ford in Northumberland County. But in 1980, Pennsylvania and county voters were tired of Carter and flocked to Reagan in droves. Dukakis lost to Bush Senior in Pennsylvania in 1988, and was blown out of the water in the county.

Pennsylvania went Democrat in the presidential election of 1992 and in every election since, going for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. However, in those five elections, Northumberland County has remained in the Republican column, preferring Bush in 1992, Dole (by a very small margin) in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

In 2008, John McCain had 55.7 of the vote in Northumberland County, beating Barack Obama 19,018 to 14,329.

(The website, "David Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections," is the source of historical election information in this article.)