New registered voters closing the gap between the number of Democrats and Republicans in North Carolina

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BySamantha Kummerer WTVD logo
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
New registered voters closing gap between number of Democrats, Republicans in NC
The Democratic Party has held the largest share of North Carolina voters for years, however since 2008, the share of voters has declined by 10%.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- More than 364,000 North Carolina residents have registered to vote since the last presidential election.

As the polls remain close between Joe Biden and President Trump, the ABC11 I-Team is looking at how voters in North Carolina have changed over the last four years.

President Trump won North Carolina by 173,315 votes back in 2016. The new voters added to the state since then make up more than double that gap and can likely make a huge impact.

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The addition of new registered voters shows the gap between Democrats and Republicans in the swing state is closing. Now 35% of North Carolina voters identify as Democrats and 30% of voters identify as Republican.

The Democratic Party has held the largest share of North Carolina voters for years, however since 2008, the share of voters has declined by 10%.

The latest North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) data reveals North Carolina has lost 128,787 registered democratic voters since 2016.

Steven Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, said this decline doesn't necessarily show a shift in voters' preferences.

"In North Carolina, like many other southern states, there's this long history especially among the older generation of white voters of being registered as a Democrat, often times still voting for Democrats in local and some state elections but voting for Republicans in National races," Greene explained.

Greene said the decline in registered Democrat voters in recent years is partially due to this older generation dying out and getting replaced by voters who more accurately register.

"So that decline in Democrats does not necessarily reflect how we can expect the Democratic Party to perform in elections for president and Senate," said Greene.

In contrast, more than 108,000 new voters registered with the Republican Party in the last four years, according to NCSBE data. Despite the increase, the party has also lost close to 2% of its share of North Carolina voters.

Instead of traditional parties, more voters are choosing to register as unaffiliated. More than 363,000 people have registered as unaffiliated since 2016; three times more than newly registered Republican voters. Unaffiliated voters have increased by 11% since 2018 and now account for a third of all North Carolina voters.

"I just think for a lot of individuals there is an image of a new democracy that doesn't look like the traditional two party system, that doesn't look like the representation of those wealthy land-owning individuals but more so fully embrace that America needs a democracy that is 21st, 22nd century where everyone is included," said Marcus Bass, the executive director of Advance Carolina.

His nonprofit organization works to increase political power in Black communities across the state. Over the past few months, Bass has worked to increase voter registration. He said he's seen the preference to registered as unaffiliated first hand.

"Well in this system we are still trying to operate on this two party system in this democracy that was bifurcated from the beginning and now I think you see younger people and not just younger people really looking at how we shift this system. How do we get rid of some of this partisanship in regards to our courts are no longer independent, how our legislative lines are drawn even down to the filibuster," Bass explained.

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Greene said younger voters have a tendency to register as unaffiliated and choose a party later on. He also explains unaffiliated voters have an advantage in North Carolina because they can choose which primary election to participate in.

When it comes to gaining insight into which way North Carolina might swing, the increase in unaffiliated voters in the state makes it even hard to predict election outcomes based on voters' registration.

"There is a lot of people who register as an independent but have a clear preference for Democrats or Republicans and we don't know based on their party registration. What we do know is based on looking at all the polls that it would be very surprising at this point if it is not close in the state," Greene said.