More than 37,000 Black North Carolina voters have switched to 'unaffiliated' since 2016 election

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Tiffany Pass from Person County has been a registered unaffiliated voter for nearly 20 years.

"I love it because I don't have to vote straight Republican or straight Democratic. And I can just get a feel for each candidate," said Pass, who is African American.

On Tuesday, the State Board of Elections released new numbers showing that since the 2016 election, a large number of Black voters have stopped identifying as Democrat. More than 37,000 are now registered as "unaffiliated."

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"That's a lot. It's about choice," Pass said.

Pass' choice is most evident during an election primary where she will get to choose a Republican or Democratic ballot.

In a general election, voters may vote for the candidate of their choice, regardless of party.

Political experts said the numbers are not surprising.

"It's also part of a broader pattern that we're seeing in North Carolina and in fact throughout the country," said Andrew Taylor, professor of political science at NC State University. "Voters are increasingly not affiliating with political parties."

Since the 2016 election, more than 123,000 former North Carolina Democrats are now registered "unaffiliated." More than 95,000 Republicans have made the switch.

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There's also a sense that partisanship and polarization are unattractive terms.

"I'm an independent person with my own thoughts and beliefs and I'm going to vote however I want. And that's a way of showing the world that you are like that," said Taylor.

New conservative groups like Blexit, also known as Black Exit from the Democratic Party, said the numbers were a positive sign.

The group showed up in droves to President Trump's first rally since his COVID-19 diagnosis. Antoine Thomas. a leader in the North Carolina Blexit chapter, was in attendance.

"This is a pivotal time. And that's what Blexit stands for. We believe in free thinking," Thomas said.

People who want to register to vote can do so during One Stop Early Voting, which begins Thursday. To find the early voting site closest to you click here.

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