Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Timeout, Not A Slam-dunk: June Medical Services LLC v. Russo

By Susan Roberts

U.S. Supreme Court cases involving questions of access to abortion are always extremely contentious and even volatile. Court decisions are highly awaited, as pro-life and pro-choice advocates watch to see the scope and the direction of the outcome. The ruling in the case of June Medical Services offered both a sigh of relief for pro-choice supporters and a glimmer of hope for pro-life activists.

On June 28, the Supreme Court's ruling in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo upheld an earlier precedent on access to abortion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. While the cases dealt with almost identical regulations on hospital admitting privileges and the cases were ruled upon almost four years ago to date, questions on access to abortion remain. The June Medical decision should not be considered an unequivocal victory for pro-choice advocates. The decision is narrow and represents more a deference to precedent than a new frontier for abortion rights.

To better understand the ruling, let’s look at the case itself, the decision, the composition of the Court, and the possible impact of this ruling on Trump’s re-election. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

NC Registered Voter Pool Hits 7 Million: Who Are They? And Who Has Registered Since 2016?

By Michael Bitzer

This past week, North Carolina's voter registration pool hit 7 million (7,003,881 to be exact), which includes active, inactive, and temporary registered voter records. As we hit the half-way point of 2020, I'll take a look at who these 7 million voters are, based on a number of characteristics that are contained in the voter registration data file, along with who has registered since the last presidential election year of 2016 and since the beginning of the year.

As a reminder: the North Carolina State Board of Elections updates the data file of all registered voters every Saturday, with the data records found here. In the files are voters who are classified as "removed" or denied (approximately 976,000); they are not included in this analysis.

Among the active, inactive, and temporary voters, party registration continues at the general pace it has been this year: 36 percent registered Democrats, 33 percent registered unaffiliated, 30 percent registered Republicans, and one percent registered with the other parties (Libertarian, Green, and Constitution).

North Carolina Voter Registration as of June 27, 2020: Party Registrations

Thursday, June 25, 2020

What effects might the "Great Cessation" have on North Carolina's counties?

By Whitney Manzo

“Doggone scary” and “grim” are two ways one state lawmaker has described North Carolina’s state budget outlook after learning that we’re looking at a $4 billion shortfall during the next two years due to the economic impacts of Covid-19. The state budget director has also said North Carolina will experience a recession soon, if it isn’t already here.

But what about county budgets? After all, these local governments have arguably been even harder hit than the state, given that counties run many of the hospitals that care for Covid-19 patients and administer many of the state’s welfare programs that help families get through business closures and unemployment. Since counties run elections, too, they’ve been doing all this while trying to administer the upcoming 2020 election cycle; no small feat in a “normal” year, it’s been a nightmare trying to safely conduct representative democracy in the midst of a pandemic.

Luckily, I have a dataset that covers all 100 North Carolina counties from 2006-2018 and I can calculate what we might expect regarding county budgets by looking at what happened from 2009-2011, the years directly following the Great Recession. Because budgets are generally decided one year in advance, we must begin our analysis one year past the start of the Great Recession (some say it began in December 2007, but we’re going to just go with 2008 as the starting year).

Looking at all North Carolina counties together, from 2009 to 2010, 70% of counties experienced a decrease in their budget. Half of those were double-digit decreases. The largest cuts were experienced by Durham County, which cut its budget from the 2008-2009 fiscal year by a shocking 40%, and Iredell County, which cut its budget by 35%. This is all the more striking considering that Durham County grew by over 5,500 people in that time, and Iredell County grew by 2,300 people. So, at the same time that these counties were experiencing rapid expansion in the number of residents they need to serve, they were also drastically cutting services.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

About Last Night: A Quick Look Back at the NC-11 Republican 2nd Primary

By Chris Cooper

Let me get the confession out of the way at the beginning: I didn’t see it coming either. I assumed the race would be close. I thought Cawthorn might pull it out, but I never imagined that he would garner almost twice as many votes as Bennett. Nor did I predict that he would win Haywood County—Bennett’s home county and her geographic base. In the end, Cawthorn won every county except Rutherford—a county that sits only partly in the 11th Congressional District. In the words of Barack Obama, it was a “shellacking;” George W. Bush might have called it a “thumping.”

I’ll also admit that the types of deep data-dives that fit with the mission of this blog may seem more interesting when races are close—after all, there’s not much need to pour over the box score from the fifth inning when one team ends the game with twice as many runs as the other. Nonetheless, it is a long season, so it’s important to step back and see what the data tell us about what happened last night, and what this might tell us about the state of politics in North Carolina moving forward. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Assessing The Early Vote in the NC-11 2nd Primary

By Chris Cooper

Early voting has concluded for the 2nd primary in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. Although mail-in ballots will continue to be counted and accepted through election day, this seems like a good time to stop and take stock of the “early” vote in the 11th (defined for this piece as all votes accepted through the last day of in-person early voting). In addition to additional mail-in votes, there will almost certainly be some slight adjustment to the overall numbers in the coming days.

Other than a brief reminder of the candidates (Madison Cawthorn and Lynda Bennett) and their home counties (Henderson and Haywood, respectively), I’ll leave a detailed description of the players and the circumstances out of this one. If you want to catch-up, I’ve included some more description in my first post for Old North State (along with links to coverage from local and national journalists). I also wrote an entry for the London School of Economics American Politics blog that summarizes many of the players and events and an article in yesterday's Asheville Citizen Times that describes why this election is so important. Since those pieces posted, Chris Cioffi had a helpful article in Roll Call and Kyle Perrotti of the Waynesville Mountaineer and Gary Robertson of the AP posted good preview articles.

On to what we know thus far:

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Politics of the U.S. Senate in the 2020 Election

By Michael Bitzer

With the significant attention given to the presidential battle that's coming up this November, more and more folks are starting to analyze the impact of the 35 races that could determine control of the U.S. Senate come January. Drs. Susan Roberts of Davidson and Chris Cooper of Western Carolina (and of this blog), along with myself, take a look at the North Carolina contest between incumbent Republican Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, along with looking at the South Carolina Graham-Harrison contest and some others in this episode of Charlotte Talks.

Monday, June 15, 2020

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over: Taking the Temperature of the 11th Congressional District Runoff

By Chris Cooper
 
Just when you thought it was safe to turn your attention to the General Election, it turns out there are still two North Carolina primaries left to decide. The first, in Columbus County remains undecided because some voters received the wrong ballot on election day. As a result, The State Board of Elections called for a new Republican primary to take place on June 23 for the Columbus County District 2 Commission race.

The second undecided primary occurred for more traditional reasons: a runoff. Like much of the South, North Carolina election law requires that candidates receive a threshold percentage of the vote to move forward. If the winner of a primary does not meet this threshold (30 percent in North Carolina), the second-place candidate can request a second primary. And, this is exactly what happened in North Carolina’s 11th congressional district where Lynda Bennett earned the most votes in the Republican primary, but was more than seven percentage points shy of the 30 percent threshold. 24-year old Madison Cawthorn eeked out second place and filed for a second primary. Election Day for this primary will occur June 23, although mail-in and one-stop early voting is already under way.

The circumstances that led to this primary, and the specifics of the candidates in the race are fascinating, but have been covered extensively by local and national reporters. In this spirit of this blog, I’m going to limit myself here to what the early returns can tell us about the candidates and whether early voting tea leaves can uncover anything about understanding elections in a time of Coronavirus. And, although the Columbus County race is fascinating, what follows only reflects returns from the 11th Congressional District.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Post-COVID-19 precipitous drop in NC voter registration

By Michael Bitzer

With the end of May and now the Phase 2 reopening of North Carolina (even though COVID-19 cases in the state are increasing), many are wondering about the economic impact on the state from the stay-at-home order from mid-March. From my point of view and research interest, another area is about voter registration and what has happened over the first five months of 2020. Articles are drawing attention on the drop of new voters across the nation since the pandemic began, and recent actions by the NC General Assembly have sought to loosen the requirements on using absentee vote-by-mail for this year's election.

In looking at the May 30, 2020 voter registration data file from the North Carolina Board of Elections, there was a significant drop in new voter registration in April and May:


To have gone from nearly 80,000 registered voters at the beginning of the year down to less than 20,000 seems to be a significant drop. Some might speculate, well, after a primary election in March, wouldn't voter registration trail off and then pick back up with the beginning of the fall campaign?

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What might presidential coattails, or voter loyalty, mean in 2020 in North Carolina?

By Michael Bitzer

In a recent Politico article on "Swing-state Republicans warn Trump's reelection is on shaky ground," former NC Governor Pat McCrory observed "the concern is: Will he have coattails for the other offices, from Senate to governor and other important races?" Geoffrey Skelley at FiveThirtyEight.com also looked at the effect of presidential coattails on a variety of down-ballot contests through various studies by political scientists. He comes to the conclusion that while presidential coattails can certainly help down-ballot party candidates, the inverse may be true as well: the president could bring down those lower-ballot candidates as well.

For most political scientists and historians of American politics, the concept of presidential coattails is that the 'top of the ticket/ballot,' that is the president, would bring in lower-level candidates (U.S. Senate and House candidates, for example) who might not have been able to win on their own accord. In other words, presidents could potentially drag their party's candidates across the finish line to victories in the general election.

With the increase in partisan loyalty of American voters, one of the key questions asked about voter behavior is whether the top of the ticket is bringing in the votes for lower level office candidates of the same party, or could the top of the ticket represents voters who vote 'straight party' down the ballot?


Friday, May 22, 2020

The History of the NC Republican Party, via the Levine Museum of the New South

By Michael Bitzer

Last year, Dr. Tom Hanchett, a community historian and, for 16 years, the Staff Historian at Levine Museum of the New South and now is historian-in-residence for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, asked me to do a presentation on the history of the Republican Party in North Carolina.

With the upcoming Republican National Convention, it was a perfect for their series, "The New South for New Southerners," and it would be a fun presentation for me to put together for an in-person evening of talking about politics in the Old North State.

Little did we realize that COVID-19 would cancel that in-person presentation, so we did the next best thing: went online with a FaceBook Live presentation. 

Here's the presentation, along with a Q&A for a few minutes afterwards. I'm thinking of breaking up the presentation and doing a separate series of YouTube videos on each of the three questions that I pose in the presentation, along with including a bit more depth of items that I couldn't get into the presentation due to time constraints.