Saturday, December 8, 2018

Some professional and personal thoughts on the NC Ninth and the Old North State's Political Character

As I sit down to write this post, much of the Old North State is set to experience something very rare: something that will blanket the state, cause many to worry and hunker down, and will likely leave a lasting impact on some for generations to come.

Actually, I should clarify that it's two things the state will experience simultaneously: a rare pre-Christmas snow fall across much of the state with significant accumulations, and an election scandal blowing out of the North Carolina Ninth Congressional District.

Setting aside the out-of-the-ordinary snowpocalypse, the Ninth Congressional District's election fraud storm that has rocked this state is unlike anything I have seen or experienced in sixteen years of studying North Carolina politics. While there may be times of localized issues surrounding election fraud, or bitterly contested elections that tear the state apart (any of Jesse Helms' election contests seem to fit that bill), the allegations coming out of the Ninth Congressional District provoke expressions of shock, embarrassment, and disbelief among native North Carolinians, who have a common ending refrain of "this isn't my North Carolina."

Now...What's Next in North Carolina's Ninth?

To say it has been a wild ride in North Carolina politics for the past two weeks would be a significant understatement. The allegations made in the Ninth Congressional District has rocked this state and will continue to do so as the North Carolina State Board of Elections finalizes its investigation into irregularities with absentee ballots, or what we might call the Bladen Ballot Betrayal.

First, a clarifying statement: the Ninth District allegations are not voter fraud. As noted by many scholars, voter fraud occurs in such cases that end up having many "zeros" behind the decimal point when looked at them in totality of ballots cast. In fact, following the 2016 general election, North Carolina's State Board of Elections released a report on the issue of voter and out of the 4.4 million ballots cast, the following numbers were found:


The total voting irregularities (508) amount to 0.0001 percent of the total ballots cast.

Monday, December 3, 2018

NC's Competitive, and Now Contested, 9th Congressional District

With the national attention that the Old North State's Ninth Congressional District is getting this past  week and will likely get in the next few days, I thought it would be good to give some comparison perspective and an overview of the main issue at hand: the absentee by mail ballots in the 9th and what we know about them, from a data point of view.

An Overview of NC Voting Methods and Patterns:


For those unfamiliar with North Carolina voting methods, there are three methods that are most used by North Carolina registered voters to cast a ballot with: in-person on Election Day, in-person through early voting (known as absentee one-stop), and through absentee by mail (ABM).

With a record turnout for a blue-moon election cycle in the state, 2018's mid-term election saw the first time that more ballots were cast before Election Day than in recent elections. Typically, this is true in NC's presidential elections, but mid-terms tend to be ones that see the majority of ballots come on Election Day, rather than prior. This year was substantially different, as was the case that several congressional contests were notably competitive (the 9th, 13th, and 2nd), despite the normal partisan advantage given to these districts.

While the significant majority of absentee ballots came through one-stop/in-person, absentee by mail ballots surpassed 2014's mid-term election final numbers:

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Updated: NC's Closest Congressional Contest Gets a Last Minute Surprise

Updated as of 3:53 PM on Thursday, Nov. 29 with new information:

Most everyone who follows North Carolina politics got a bit of a shock Tuesday evening when the State Board of Elections refused to certify the 9th Congressional District's election results, and by a unanimous vote (4 Democrats, 4 Republicans, and 1 Unaffiliated), moved to open an investigation surrounding the contest that saw Republican Mark Harris win by 905 votes over Democrat Dan McCready.

The State Board moved to investigate the issue, on the suggestion by the Democratic vice-chair of the board, when word came forward that possible irregularities in Bladen County, and later in Robeson County, caused concern regarding the election results. Specifically, Democrat Joshua Malcolm, the board's vice chair, contended that:
“I’m very familiar with the unfortunate activities that have happened in my part of the state," Malcolm said during the (NC State Board of Elections') meeting. "And I am not going to turn a blind eye to what took place to the best of my understanding, which has been ongoing for a number of years, and which has been repeatedly referred to the United States attorney and the district attorneys to clean up. Those things have not taken place.”

As WFAE reported, the issue may hang on an "unusual" number of absentee ballots coming into Bladen County.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Charlotte's Urban Blue Goes Deeper as the Traditional CLT GOP Wedge Collapses

With the Democratic flips in South Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in a number of elections this year (for state house and county commission, in particular), concerns among Republicans have surfaced that Charlotte, and Mecklenburg County, may see no Republican-elected officials in the city's and county's future. In fact, one Republican member of the Charlotte City Council expressed concern that "We could very well be in the last days of Republicans being elected in Charlotte."

But this wasn't a 2018 sudden earthquake, but rather a set of tremors that were building since at least 2004 for the "Republican wedge" in south Charlotte.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

With the 2018 Election dust settling, let's revisit redistricting's influence

Now that the dust is settling on the North Carolina 2018 mid-terms (I can't speak for other states), we can begin to analyze and dig deeper into the data of voters who showed up to cast ballots, once that information is released by the counties to the NC State Board of Elections. It will likely be posted into the "voter history" data file, found here, and I'll work to slice out the 2018 voters and merge it with the voter registration file.

Yet there is some analysis beginning to show about the results of the Old North State's elections and what it might mean. One that caught my eye was over at LongLeaf Politics blog, about the issue of Democrats "winning" more votes yet not gaining a proportional representation in either the U.S. House or in the state legislature.

In Andrew Dunn's argument, Democrats
"tend to live in big cities. Rural areas are reliably red. Geographically, rural areas are simply much larger. So in most any way you draw districts, Democrats tend to pack together."
Yes, urban areas (i.e., "big cities") are trending more Democratic, and in North Carolina, urban counties are noticeably blue in elections (and some are becoming bluer with each election).


But how do we know that Democrats are "packed" together in urban areas: is it 50 percent of all Democrats are concentrated in urban areas? Are there few, if any, Democrats out in the ruby red rural counties? What about the supposed 'battleground' suburbs (which, in the Old North State's surrounding suburban counties, aren't really that competitive, as noted above)--are Democrats suburbanite voters, or are they all just big city dwellers?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

An Early Explanation to North Carolina's Constitutional Amendment Votes

With the final number settling in the Old North State's 2018 mid-term election, a number of analyses can be conducted with the data (with more analysis once the voter history data file is released later this month hopefully).

With six constitutional amendments on the 2018 mid-term ballots in North Carolina, a set of questions could be raised, most notably, what explains the vote pattern for the constitutional amendments (of which four of the six amendments passed)?

In thinking about the previous blog post about the impact of Trump's 2016 vote in the 2018 state legislative districts, and the fact that the Trump 2016 vote percentage explained 95 percent or more of the 2018 GOP candidate's vote in the state legislative districts, I started off by looking at the 100 county percentages for each of the 2018 constitutional amendments compared to the 2016 vote percentage for Donald Trump in the counties.

First, the constitutional amendment that had the highest vote 'for' was the victims' rights amendment, which passed with 62 percent of the vote:


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

How NC's 2018 State Legislative Districts "Behaved" in Relationship to Trump's 2016 Vote

In a previous blog post, I noted that there appeared to be a close relationship to how a Republican state legislative candidate performed (that is, the vote percentage that GOP candidate received in the district) compared to the district's vote for Donald Trump in 2016.

Now that we have the preliminary election results and percentages for both state house and state senate Republican candidates, I decided to re-run the analysis to see what, if any, association was present between Trump's vote percentage in the new state legislative districts and the GOP candidate's vote percentage in the 2018 election.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Some thoughts on what to look for in NC's Election evening for the NC General Assembly contests

After 2016, I thought it best to stick to "explaining" why elections and their results happened, rather than "predicting" beforehand what could happen on Election evening. But as I'm teaching a course on Congress this semester, and we just wrapped up the section on mid-term elections, I thought it might be fun to post some thoughts on elections and what political scientists call the "fundamentals" when it comes to campaigns & elections, especially at the state level for 2018.

As many North Carolinians will be focused on the state's 13 congressional districts, it will be important to watch the state's General Assembly contests for both the state house and state senate in the Old North State. All eyes are on the question: can Democrats reduce the Republicans' seats in the state senate (GOP controls 35 seats) and the state house (GOP controls 75 seats) to below 'supermajority' status (3/5's of the 50 senate seats and 120 of the house seats) and thus break the power of the legislature to override Democratic Governor Roy Cooper's veto? If so, that would pose an interesting divided government scenario for the state for the next two years.

Going into Election Day for NC's Congressional Contests

(Update with numbers for each congressional district's early votes)

With the state's blue-moon election (no U.S. Senate or gubernatorial contest that encompasses the entire state), all of the attention of the Old North State has been on the 10-3 Republican-controlled delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. With a potential Democratic wave cresting tomorrow (or not), a traditional Republican advantage in a mid-term turnout (or not), and a president sitting in the low to mid-40s (or not) for a job approval, this year's mid-term election has been strange, to say the least.

The three congressional districts that have garnered the most attention in North Carolina is the 9th, which stretches from the suburbs of Charlotte east to Fayetteville and is an open seat contest, the 13th, which covers the Greensboro suburbs west into Davie, Davidson, Rowan, and Iredell counties, and the 2nd, which hugs Raleigh and its surrounding suburbs on the south and eastern side of Wake County.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

It's All Over...Except for Election Day's Votes in NC: An Analysis of 2018's NC Early Voters

Early voting has ended in North Carolina, and the numbers are beyond impressive.

Why "impressive"? Because the Old North State is in its 'blue-moon' election cycle for the 2018 mid-term. With North Carolina governor's races held in presidential years and neither of the two U.S. Senate races being contested this year, there isn't a major contest that draws substantial attention from across the state.

Yes, there is a weirdly contested election for a state supreme court seat, various seats on the lower courts, and controversial constitutional amendments on the ballot, but there's nothing like what is driving early voting in states like Texas (U.S. Senate), Georgia (governor's race), or Florida (both U.S. Senate and a governor's race).

So, to have over 2.1 million votes cast before 2018's Election Day, when the last mid-term election in 2014 saw a total of 2.8 million votes cast, allows for the term 'impressive' to be used in this context.

Now, we will continue to see a trickle of absentee by mail ballots come in, but with in-person absentee voting concluded, we have a sense of who has showed up to vote, but not necessarily 'how' they voted, until we get the early returns after the polls close at 7:30 (or when the last votes are cast) on Tuesday evening.

With that said, here are the dynamics of 2018's early voting in North Carolina (these figures represent all accepted absentee ballots, both mail and in-person, as of November 4). As a reminder: all data comes from the North Carolina State Board of Elections:

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Some thoughts on NC Legislative Battles Shaping Up on Nov. 6

With today's release of a new Meredith College Poll, they find that both congressional and state legislative generic ballot questions have Democrats favored by 10 points over Republicans.

This is certainly an eye-popping number, and may reflect the Democratic enthusiasm level (on a scale of 1-10, probably safe to say a 12), but Democrats are facing two important barriers to their blue wave in a blue-moon election cycle in the Old North State.

First, in North Carolina and in the nation, Republicans have had historical advantages when it comes to voter turnout. In a previous post, I noted the turnout rates of registered voters, by party registration, in North Carolina's past elections, going back to the 2002 mid-terms:


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

One Week To Go

We're now down to the wire when it comes to 2018's mid-term election, and we're at 5 days left in North Carolina's early voting period (which ends this coming Saturday).

Here's the latest numbers (that were also posted to Twitter at @oldnorthstpol) for today's numbers of early votes, through October 29, 2018.

We're now at 1.3 million requested ballots and 1.2 million returned & accepted ballots, for both mail and in-person (onestop) absentee ballots:


Monday, October 29, 2018

A few recent media appearances

It's the busy time of the season for most political scientists and analysts, and this year has almost felt like a presidential year in terms of media requests.

Was fortunate to join some distinguished political science colleagues (David McLennan at Meredith University; Jason Husser at Elon University; Chris Cooper at Western Carolina University) on NC Spin to digest (in a spirited fashion) the 2018 mid-terms as we enter the homestretch.

Also, I joined the Long Leaf Pine podcast to talk about early voting so far in NC. 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Understanding NC's Politics: Past Registered Voter Turnout Rates

As we finalize this mid-term election with the last week of early voting in-person and the big day coming on November 6, it may be helpful to understand what the past trends have been for registered voter turnout, but it's important to note that this may not necessarily help us understand what 2018's turnout will be.

As evident in the early voting, we're nearing 20 percent turnout so far of the 7 million plus registered voters.

For an overview, the past trends of North Carolina's registered voter turnout rate shows the ups of a presidential year and the drop in a mid-term year (data from the NC State Board of Elections' website):


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Halfway Through NC's Early Voting Period And We're Ready to Surpass 2014's Numbers

With more than 9 days in the books for North Carolina's in-person absentee onestop voting, we're halfway through the early voting period and the state is ready to surpass the 2014 total absentee ballots cast.

Through Friday, October 26, North Carolina voters have requested over 1.1 million absentee ballots, for both mail-in and onestop/in-person, and returned and accepted over 1 million of them.  The daily numbers and the cumulative totals for both types of absentee ballots are below, first by requested ballots:

And then by returned and accepted ballots:

Friday, October 26, 2018

NC's Middle Weekend of Early Voting

On Thursday evening, I was at a dinner meeting that ran late, past 9 PM, and about 9:20 PM, my phone started to blow up. I thought, oh no, what now...and I was received tweets, DMs, and text messages that Rachel Maddow was citing some information that I had posted about North Carolina's early voting, especially on Sunday and the traditional "Souls to the Polls" activity that black churches engage in with their members:



Just a minor correction to the story: this past weekend, on Sunday October 21, North Carolina had only 9 out of the 100 counties open for Sunday early voting.

This weekend (October 27 & 28), the core middle weekend in the 18 days of early voting (in-person) in North Carolina, 20 counties will have early voting opportunities on Sunday, with more on Saturday (based on information from the NC State Board of Elections website):



I'll be updating the numbers coming in over the weekend, along with updating the new voter registration data file and analyzing that aspect as well.

Thanks to all for reading and following along, and especially to the new subscribers from the mention on the Rachel Maddow Show.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

With 2 Weeks To Go Before Election Day, NC's Mid-Terms Are Still Looking Presidential

As of today (10-23-18) and the fact that we're two weeks out from the 2018 mid-term election, North Carolina's early voters are still acting like it's a presidential year in terms of the numbers, though yesterday's tally showed a slight dip in the numbers when compared to 2016.

So far, North Carolina has over 658,000 requests for ballots, with the overwhelming number of them in the form of absentee onestop (in other words, in-person early votes). Over 585,000 of these requested ballots have been returned and accepted as votes for November 6's election.

A comparison to 2010, 2014, and 2016 shows that 2018 is on a different trend line from past mid-terms, and is mirroring the numbers posted in the last presidential election.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

So Is It a Mid-Term Year or Something Else in North Carolina?

After three days of absentee one-stop voting (in other words, in-person early voting) so far, we have an interesting trend developing in North Carolina.

So far, there have been 388,817 absentee in-person ballots cast and accepted as votes for the November 6th election.

In comparing that total on day three of 2018's early voting (which is one more day than either 2010's mid-term or 2016's presidential, and eight days more than the 2014 mid-term election), there's an interesting comparison--and remember, 2018 is a 'blue-moon' election with no major state-wide race (such as U.S. Senate or governor, other than a state supreme court election):



Thursday, October 18, 2018

NC's First Day of "Early Voting" (Even Though We've Been Voting for a Few Weeks Now)

Wednesday, October 17th was the first day of what many refer to as North Carolina's 'early voting,' even though voters have been requesting and returning ballots for some time now through the mail.

The state's start of absentee onestop ballots, sometimes referred to as 'in-person early voting,' began with a significant run at the numbers. The following shows some comparative analysis for the beginning of a popular method of voters casting ballots. This data comes from the North Carolina State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement and can be found here.

First, a note on comparing this year's in-person 'early votes' to other mid-term election years: 2010 had a window of 17 days, while 2014 had a window of only 10 days. This year's window of 18 days will therefore be much different in the past, but the comparison may be helpful to show some trends.

The overall totals of NC's absentee ballots, both for mail and in-person:

Monday, October 15, 2018

Going into This Week's In-Person Absentee Voting & "T Minus 3 Weeks & Counting" Until Election Day 2018

As North Carolina gets ready to start casting absentee one-stop (that is, in-person no excuse absentee voting) and we hit the three weeks mark until Election Day 2018, here is where things stand with the state's absentee by mail ballots.

Total requested absentee mail ballots, through 10-14-18 (as of 10-15-18): 68,940

Total sent absentee mail ballots: 67,129 (97.3 percent of those requested)

Total returned and accepted absentee mail ballots: 10,279 (14.9 percent of those requested)

Here are the party registration data for requested, sent, and accepted mail ballots:

Saturday, October 13, 2018

NC Absentee Mail Ballots as of 10-13-18

For NC's mail absentee ballots, through Friday, Oct. 12 (posted as of 10-13-18):

So far, the number of requested absentee mail ballots stands at 65,949, with 64,715 sent (98.1% of requested), and 9,511 have been returned and accepted so far (14.4% of requested); by party registration for requested, sent, & accepted:



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

NC Mail Absentee Ballots as of 10-9-18

NC's mail absentee ballots, through Monday, Oct. 8 (data as of 10-9-18):

Requested: 48,623 Sent: 47,944 (98.6% of requested) Returned & Accepted: 4,850 (10% of requested) And by party registration for requested, sent, & accepted:






Thursday, October 4, 2018

NC's Mail Ballots as of 10-4-18

Updated with new analysis of voters who didn't vote in 2014 but have requested mail absentee ballots in 2018 (see below):

The latest numbers of North Carolina absentee by mail ballot requests, sent, and returned & accepted, along with various breakdowns/analyses by party registration, gender, region, and other aspects are below--these were tweeted out at @oldnorthstpol:

Requested as of 10-3-18 (reported 10-4-18): 35,209

Sent: 34,606 (98% of requested)

Returned and Accepted: 2,962 (8.4% of requested)


Sunday, September 30, 2018

NC's Mail Ballots as of 9-29-18

As of September 29, 2018, the North Carolina mail absentee ballots so far are:

Requested: 23,762
Sent: 23,364 (98 percent of requested)
Returned and Accepted: 1,444 (6.1 percent of requested)

And by party registration for all three categories:


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Did Hurricane Matthew Have An Impact on 2016 Elections?

I've gotten a couple of calls from reporters regarding the question, was there any impact from Hurricane Matthew, that hit North Carolina in mid-October of 2016, to help us understand what might be in the forecast for the impact by Hurricane Florence in this year's election?

First, a key difference between Matthew and Florence: Matthew hit in mid-October (the 10th), with FEMA designating the following counties:

Florence, hitting in mid-September, lead to the designation of these counties by FEMA so far:

Sunday, September 23, 2018

NC's Mail Ballots as of 9-22-18

With the end of the week, an update on where things stand regarding North Carolina's absentee by mail ballots, including requested, sent, and returned & accepted. I sent many of these charts out via Twitter @oldnorthstpol, but here are all the charts for 9-22-18 in one convenient spot for future reference:

The requested mail ballots, as of 9-22-18, total 17,225, with the following breakdown by party registration of the voter:


Thursday, September 20, 2018

9/20/18 Update on NC's Mail Ballots: Votes Are Coming In

As North Carolina surveys the damage and continues to dry out from the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, voters are requesting and casting ballots already for the November 6 general election in the Old North State. Here's a review of where the numbers stand regarding absentee by mail ballots, especially by requested, sent, and accepted ballots.

As of September 19th, the number of requested ballots has hit 15,704, with the following party registration breakdown:


Normally, in this method of voting, registered Republicans tend to dominate mail-in ballots, but even in the early trends, they are third with barely a quarter of the requested ballots so far.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

More Analysis of NC Mail-In Ballots as of 9-15-18 (Updated)

With another day of mail-in ballot data in from the NC State Board of Elections, a bit more of a trend line can be presented of the 12,541 requested mail ballots so far for this year's election. First, the comparison between 2014's and 2018's requests for mail ballots, by the days prior to Election Day:



Friday, September 14, 2018

Comparing 2018 to 2014 NC Mail In Ballots

With the beginning of mail-in ballots going out and being returned, I decided to compare 2014's mail-in ballot numbers, by party registration, to what we are starting to see in 2018's mid-term election.

First, looking at the requests by voters for mail-in ballots for 2014 and what 2018 is showing at 53 days out from Election Day:


North Carolinians Are Voting in the 2018 Mid-Term Election

Courtesy of the North Carolina State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement, the first batch of absentee-by-mail ballots are being sent out and some have returned and accepted as votes for the November 2018 election.

Usually every week I'll try to update these numbers (unless the demand is really out there for daily updates) and present the numbers of ballots requested and accepted by a couple of key indicators, namely party registration of the voter, generation, and congressional districts (as we are mostly focused on the congressional races in this blue moon election in the Old North State).

Now, let me say that generally mail-in ballots will be a fairly small percentage of the overall votes cast in the state; in 2014's mid-term election, only 2 percent of the ballots cast were by mail.

As of Friday, September 14 (which includes up to the previous day's numbers), 12,209 mail ballots had been sent out to voters, with 12 ballots accepted so far.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

It's Official: 7 Million Registered Voters in the Old North State

Well, to be exact: 7,005,862 registered active and inactive voters, according to the NCSBE as of September 8, 2018. While not much has changed among the various statistics that I generally follow and report on, I'll go ahead and repeat some and give some further observations as we enter the home stretch of the mid-term campaign season.

First, the partisan registration break down continues to see unaffiliated registration inch up:


Registered Democrats are 38 percent, while registered unaffiliated voters are 31.6 and registered Republicans are 29.9 percent; the other parties--Libertarian, Green, and Constitution--are less than one-half of one percent of the total pool of registered voters.

Racially, the electorate continues to diversify:

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Summer Ends, The General Campaign Begins, and a Look at NC's Voter Pool

With only 1,311 voters shy of 7 million, North Carolina begins the general campaign into the 2018 mid-term elections with a continued strong showing of younger voters and the rise of the unaffiliated registered voter.

As of September 1, 2018, the state's registered voter pool (active and inactive) breaks down as follows:



Monday, August 6, 2018

A Deeper Exploration of North Carolina's Urban/Suburban/Rural Voters

Much has been written about the "regional" divide in American politics, between urban, suburban, and rural areas of the nation and in the states. In a recent study by the Pew Research Center on what unites and divides these three regions, the partisan leanings of all three areas show that urban and rural areas have the greatest differences between the two (urban = more Democratic, while rural = more Republican), with suburbs being an almost even split between the partisans:

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/05/22/what-unites-and-divides-urban-suburban-and-rural-communities/psd_05-22-18_community-type-00-01/
The political closeness of suburban areas in the nation has lead some to question whether Republicans can hold on to their majorities in this year's mid-term election, especially in the U.S. House. But while some believe that North Carolina has been trending more like the nation in recent elections, the regional differences are rather distinct to the Old North State than the United States.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

North Carolina "Party-Switchers" So Far In 2018

Included in the wealth of data provided by the NC State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement is a spreadsheet containing information on voters who have changed their party registration so far in 2018.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Where Is The Uproar Over Charlotte's #RNC2020 Bid Coming From?

With the pending decision by the Charlotte City Council on whether to formalize the bid for hosting the Republican National Committee's 2020 Presidential Nominating Convention causing a great deal of controversy in the Queen City, it might be good to step back and see the transition that Charlotte has undergone, and continues to do so, in its political behavior and how its politics, especially at the presidential level, is playing out.

First, a word about the methodology used for the below illustrative maps: for a while, I have adapted Charlie Cook's Partisan Voter Index, or PVI, to illustrate how precincts vote in comparison to the national performance of the presidential candidates. So, for example, if a presidential candidate received 52 percent of the national vote, and a precinct voted for that same candidate with 57 percent of the vote, that precinct would be a "+5" to that presidential candidate's party.

Thus, one can assign a "score" of plus whichever party in comparison to the party's national performance. For each presidential election since 2004, I have taken Mecklenburg County's precinct votes, compared them to each presidential performance, and then averaged the 2004-08, 2008-12, and 2012-16 results, with the following coding scheme:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Half-Way Through 2018, NC's Voter Registration Creeps to 7M

Now that we're half-way through 2018, the North Carolina registered voter pool slowly creeps towards 7 million active and inactive voters. As of July 7, 2018, 6,962,898 voters were on the roll, an increase of nearly 125,000 since the beginning of the year.

Among the patterns of registration since the beginning of 2018, unaffiliated registrations have been the significant plurality, while Democratic registrations lead Republican registrations. At the end of the first six months of 2018, 45 percent of new voters registered as unaffiliated, with 30 percent Democratic and 24 percent Republican.


Of the 6.9 million voters, the overall party registration percentages breaks down to 38 percent registered Democrats, 31 percent registered unaffiliated, and 30 percent registered Republican. The other party registrations--Libertarian, Green, and the Constitution parties--are one percent of the total.

In looking at a variety of ways of breaking down the state's voter pool, I break it down by race, generational cohorts, gender, and region (urban, suburban, and rural counties), along with a focus on two congressional districts that may be in play in this year's mid-term election.

Monday, June 25, 2018

NC's Partisan Gerrymandering Kicked Back by SCOTUS to Reconsider "Standing"

This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued an order vacating the decision by the Middle District of North Carolina regarding the district court's findings of partisan gerrymandering by the North Carolina General Assembly of the congressional district map (known as Rucho v. Common Cause), and remanding the case back to the Middle NC District Court to consider the decision by SCOTUS in the Wisconsin redistricting case of Gill v. Whitford, announced a few weeks ago. In Gill, SCOTUS vacated the lower's court's previous decision in finding an unconstitutional gerrymandering by the Wisconsin legislature, and asked for reconsideration of the "standing" of the plaintiffs in the case.

Monday, June 11, 2018

In Our Polarized Era, Are We More "Warm" or "Cold" Towards Our Presidential Candidates?

In preparing for a special topics class next year on "Polarization in American Politics," I'm working through a set of books this summer, beginning with James E. Campbell's "Polarized: Making Sense of American Politics." It is a well-written and easy read, both in-depth and broad in its questions and Campbell's answers about polarization in our politics, and fits nicely in my thinking about the course. I'll likely assigned it after the students read Morris Fiorina's "Culture War? The Myth of Polarized America" and Alan Abramowitz's "The Polarized Public: Why American Government is So Dysfunctional," which serve as the "polarized opposites" in the controversy over political polarization in America.

There are many testable and intriguing questions to further explore polarization from Campbell's book, but one that struck me was on page 210, where Campbell notes that in 2004's American National Election Studies survey, only 62 percent of voters who were "relatively cool" to their party's candidates turned out to vote, while those who were "hotly enthusiastic" about their party's candidates had a turnout rate of 86 percent. Campbell measured "cool" and "hot" via a "feeling thermometer" that ANES has asked in its various surveys of the American electorate. In asking respondents to the ANES studies, the interviewer would describe the thermometer, which goes from 0 for "cold" to 100 for "hot," in the following way:

"If you don't feel particularly warm or cold toward a person, then you should place (that person) in the middle of the thermometer, at the 50 degree mark. If you have a warm feeling toward (the person) or feel favorable toward (the person), you would give ... a score somewhere between 50 degrees and 100 degrees. On the other hand, if you don't feel very favorable toward a person--that is, if you don't care for (them) too much--then you would place (that person) somewhere between 0 degrees and 50 degrees." 

In his study, Campbell uses the ranges of below 59 as "cool" towards the individual and above 80 as being "hotly enthusiastic." But he only cites the 2004 ANES study for his evidence in regards to turnout. As I was reading this section, I thought about whether we would see any trends over time and, if so, what differences there were in the "coolness" or "hotness" by voters and partisan identifiers towards presidential candidates, using Campbell's coding for the feeling thermometers.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

North Carolina's Registered Voter Pool Nearly Reaches 7 Million

As of June 2, 2018, there was nearly 7 million registered voters in the Old North State, a one percent increase since the beginning of 2018.

The state's party registration percentages have held steady since the middle of February, when registered unaffiliated voters claimed the second largest voter registration block (31 percent) in the state, with registered Democrats still at the top (38 percent) and registered Republicans in third place (30 percent). The newest addition to the party registration is the Green Party, with a little over 200 voters so far registering with the new party. The U.S. Constitution Party will be the newest addition to the voter rolls, with their recent approval by the NC State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

What I Learned This Semester From Teaching Presidential Politics and State & Local Politics


Having taught two courses this semester, one on State and Local Politics and the other on Presidential Politics, I came to the end of the semester with some thoughts that may intersect between the two topics: one about presidential "cycles," another about the demographic changes going on in our nation and in the Old North State, and the political polarization that we continue to experience. Based on a recent guest lecture to a civic group in Charlotte that brought these thoughts together, I thought I would share these ideas.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Deeper Look into NC's 9th Democratic Primary: Was There Reverse Drop-Off in Some Counties?

Today's post-primary blog piece raised some interesting questions, especially regarding the differences between the highly-competitive and charged Republican primary between Robert Pittenger and Mark Harris and what turned out to be a lop-sided Democratic primary between Dan McCready and Christian Cano in the Old North State's 9th Congressional District.

As it turned out, the Democratic primary attracted 45,660 votes across the eight counties that make up the 9th Congressional District, while the GOP 9th's primary attracted 35,494 votes. Some might interpret this difference to a higher energy level on the Democratic side than on the Republican side in the 9th district.

Below is the map of the 9th and the counties in it:

Looking back at Tuesday's NC Primary Election

Some thoughts on Tuesday's primary election in the Old North State:

The 9th Congressional District Republican contest lived up to the belief that it would be another competitive rematch between incumbent Robert Pittenger and Rev. Mark Harris. In 2016, when Pittenger secured the nomination with a 134 vote win over second-place Harris, there was a viable third candidate, Johnson, whose base was in, and he subsequently won, Union County. This year's contest did have a third candidate, but one who only generated 1,862 total votes, so the match was definitely between Pittenger and Harris.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Early Votes Are In--Now It's Down to Election Day Voting in NC's Primary Contests

Now that we have the early votes cast in North Carolina's primary election, a "whopping" 4 percent of the 6.9 million registered voters decided to cast their ballots before today's election.

Among the accepted early ballots, either cast by mail or in-person, Democratic primary ballots were the majority of the state's primary electorate, 59 percent to the GOP primary ballot being chosen by 41 percent of the voters. As a reminder: registered partisan voters can only vote in their party's primary (registered Democrats in the Democratic primary, while Republican registered voters can vote in the GOP primary only), but registered unaffiliated voters can pick one or the other party primary to cast their ballot.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

With a Week to Go Until NC's Primary Election, Where Are The Voters?

With a week to go before the May 8th primary election in the Old North State, voter turnout in early voting has been, to use a political sciencey-term, lackluster (and that's being kind).

According to the May 2nd NC State Board of Elections and Ethic Enforcement statistics, a little over 2 percent of the state's voters have requested ballots: 187,000 out of the 6.9 million registered active and inactive voters based on almost three weeks of early voting. This really isn't surprising, though, due to the fact that there is no major state-wide primary contest driving folks to the polls (thus, the 'blue-moon' election cycle that North Carolina tends to have every twelve years, with no gubernatorial (elected in presidential years) and no U.S. Senate contests).

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Urban vs. Suburban vs. Rural: Where's the Battleground?

In a discussion on WFAE's Charlotte Talks, I joined both Jonathan Kappler of the NC Free Enterprise Foundation and Dante Chinni of the American Communities Project to discuss the idea that in this year's mid-term elections, suburbs could be the electoral battleground fields.

I've done a lot of data investigating and researching into North Carolina's "regionalism" of urban vs. suburban vs. rural counties, but wanted to get a clearer picture of the national landscape and how the Old North State might line up, or be misaligned, to national patterns, especially when it comes to presidential voting patterns.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Democrats Target NC General Assembly Seats--But How Big A "Wave" Might Be Needed in November?

This week, the North Carolina Democratic Party released a "target list" of General Assembly districts for the fall general election. And while much has been made about an impending "blue wave" that can benefit Democrats and put Republicans on defense, the measurements for estimating the size of the wave is, at best, any pundit's guess at this point in the mid-term cycle.

One aspect that could give some clues as to the potential size of a "blue wave" is a baseline relationship between President Trump's performance in a legislative district and how it corresponds to the performance of the Republican candidate in the same legislative district. If the mid-terms are a referendum on the president's popularity (or lack thereof), using presidential performance as the baseline for a legislative district could give a sense of what Democrats would need to overcome the Republican-leanings of a district.

As I noted in a previous post, the relationship between Trump's performance and a GOP candidate's performance is pretty strong in North Carolina--partly meaning that Old North State voters aren't the "split ticket voters" that they once were.

So, as an example, in the 2016 election, one could graph President Trump's vote performance within the 13 congressional districts against each GOP congressional candidate's performance to see how close a relationship the Trump district vote was to the congressional candidate's vote:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

My View on Polarization in American Politics

On Wednesday, April 11, I will be a panelist at Charlotte Preparatory School's Parent Partnership Event on "Parenting in the Age of Political Divisiveness." In doing some work to gather my thoughts for this much needed conversation, I decided to review two key perspectives about this notion of polarization: whether it exists in a comprehensive level in our nation's politics, or whether it only exists at the elite level, and not in the broader political environment.

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Generational & Party Trend of New NC Voters in 2018

I spoke with a reporter today regarding the trend of younger voters and the expectation of how many new voters could come from younger Americans, and in particular, North Carolinians.

One estimate given was that 186,000 new young voters could register this year in the Old North State. Having completed a recent analysis of the latest NC voter registration data file, I decided to look at the new voters since the beginning of 2018 through the end of March by generation and party registration within the youngest voters' generations (Gen Z are 18-21 years old, while Millennials are 22 to 37 years old).

First, Generation Z voters since the beginning of the year:

Thinking about Voter Turnout & Data

In a recent McClatchy article on the challengers to U.S. Representative Alma Adams (D), who represents the 12th Congressional District based solely in Mecklenburg County, the issue of who represents a "generational change" agent has become a target to the congresswoman.

In the article, the reporter uses NC State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement age ranges to describe the voters in the 2017 general election for the City of Charlotte:

Sunday, April 1, 2018

April's Analysis of North Carolina Registered Voter Pool

While April 1 lands on a Sunday, the latest North Carolina State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement data, posted on Saturday, March 31, gives information about the 6.9 million registered voters in the state.

First, the state's political party registration among these voters breaks down as 38 percent registered Democrat, 31 percent registered unaffiliated, 30 percent registered Republican, 1 percent registered Libertarian, and 0.000004 percent (or, 3 voters) who have registered with the recently approved Green Party in the Old North State.

Among the five different generational cohorts, the party registration continues to demonstrate a trend among younger voters to opt to registered unaffiliated:

Friday, March 30, 2018

Another Aspect of NC's Shifting Politics: Natives vs. Non-Natives

I was interviewed, along with Dr. Rebecca Tippett, with the Carolina Population Center and director of Carolina Demography, about the recent news from the U.S. Census Bureau regarding North Carolina's population and the shifting dynamics from urban counties to suburban counties, as documented in this great map graphic from the Greensboro News & Record:

Courtesy of the Greensboro News & Record
Courtesy of the Greensboro News & Record

Much of the population change for the state has occurred due to migration into the state; per estimates by the Carolina Population Center, nearly half, or 43 percent, of the Old North State's population were born out of state.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Analysis of North Carolina Voters by Gender

With discussions of how women may be a deciding factor in the 2018 mid-term elections, and in concluding Women's History Month, I decided to do another deep data dive, this time into the gender differences within North Carolina's registered voter pool.

My research interests in the Old North State's politics tend to focus on how North Carolina's voter pool is experiencing two "tectonic" shifts: one based on generational cohorts (those voters under the age of 37, who constitute the Millennial and Generation Z cohorts, versus those voters over the age of 37, who make up Generation X, Baby Boomer, and Silent/Greatest generations), while the other shift is the urban/suburban/rural divide in the Old North State.  This analysis uses these two characteristics to divide the active and inactive registered voters, with a focus on gender.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Exploring the Youth Vote

With the impressive numbers of young people in the past weekend's #MarchForOurLives and the mobilization due to the Parkland shooting, much has been made about whether this is an awakening, like the #MeToo movement, of young people and how they will respond, especially if they register to vote when they turn 18 years old and then actually show up to cast ballots in November.

Much of the research about youth turnout at the ballot box notes that rates of voting among younger votes has been significantly lower than older voters. But with the apparent energy and potential mobilization effect, young voters could see a higher turnout rate this November, due to the apparent energy and potential mobilization effect, along with a significant disapproval of the president (and mid-term elections tend to be referendums on the president and his party).

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Is It Time for Republicans to Panic? The Winds Are Definitely Blowing...


The Democratic wave crashed into Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district, and Republicans have begun the appropriate stage in a mid-term election year that's moving against them: in a phrase, "batten down the hatches."

In a leaked e-mail from the NC State House GOP political director, the "predictions" were that if North Carolina experienced a similar wave as the one that occurred in Pennsylvania, Democrats would not only capture the lower chamber of the General Assembly, but have super-majority status. Needless to say, Democrats are making hay of the e-mail.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Deep Dive into the Demographic Dynamics of NC's Districts: Volume 3--NC's State House

With the previous posts on congressional and state senate districts, I looked at the voters within each district and utilized five categories to classify: percentage of party registration, racial and ethnicity, regionalism, generations, and gender. This post wraps up the series with a deep dive into the North Carolina State House districts, all 120. Needless to say, with that many districts, I'll be putting the numbers and the percentage tables at the end of the piece, with analysis to follow. The analysis is only based on the demographic numbers and percentages; candidate quality (incumbent, challenger, etc.) is not taken into account.

The current map, as has been challenged through several lawsuits, shows the following district lines, with Republicans controlling 76 seats out of the 120 in the chamber:

Monday, March 12, 2018

Deep Dive into the Demographic Dynamics of NC's Districts: Volume 2--NC's State Senate

In the previous post, I looked at the dynamics of voter registration within North Carolina's 13 congressional districts. This post begins a two-part review and analysis of the state's General Assembly districts, first with the 50 districts in the state senate. With much of the attention being paid to NC's congressional districts in this "blue-moon" election cycle, the state legislative races will command state-wide attention, with the Democrats attempting to at least break the Republican's super-majority numbers in both chambers.

The map of the most recently approved upper chamber districts:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Exploring Evangelicals in 2016's Election: Partisanship Divided The Flock

I found this article on "A Quiet Exodus: Why Blacks Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches" to be an interesting exploration of the controversies surrounding evangelicalism in today's political environment.

In particular, Michael Emerson, co-author of "Divided by Faith", a study that explored the racial relations within the evangelical movement, said in the article:

"Everything we tried is not working. ... The election itself was the single most harmful event to the whole movement of (racial) reconciliation in at least the past 30 years,” he said. “It’s about to completely break apart.”
Much has been made about the support by most white evangelical voters to President Trump. In fact, one of the president's evangelical advisory board members said recently:

Friday, March 9, 2018

Deep Dive into the Demographic Dynamics of NC's Districts: Volume 1--Congressional

In a previous post, I noted that the dynamics that both Democrats and Republicans were going into with this year's mid-term elections would be based on both demographic, partisan, and regional aspects. This blog post dives deeper into the legislative districts, since the Old North State is experiencing is "once in a blue moon" election cycle with no marquee state-wide race, such as U.S. Senate or governor's contest (a reminder: NC governors are elected in presidential years, unlike many chief executives in the states).

In analyzing the congressional (this post) and state legislative districts (next post), I draw upon the March 3, 2018 data "download" from the NC State Board of Elections of the over 6.8 million active and inactive voters on the rolls. Using this information, I can draw out the various dynamics (party registration, race, age/generation, region, etc.) to analyze and see what trends are evident in the numbers of voters. Of course, these numbers will change/shift between now and November's general election, but this will set a baseline of sorts for future analysis of the voter pool.

First, looking at the state's congressional districts, which look like this (and may still change, thanks to a variety of lawsuits over the districts):

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Regional Bases and Dynamics of North Carolina's Political Parties


Over at Long Leaf Politics blog, Andrew Dunn took a look at where North Carolina Democrats were focusing their time for the upcoming mid-term elections: while Democrats hope that the suburbs would be battleground to break the Republican's supermajorities in the state's General Assembly, Andrew writes that "any scenario in which the Dems wield any real power statewide requires them to make inroads into rural North Carolina as well." 

In looking at the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections by the state's regional classification (as determined by the U.S. Office of Management & Budget for urban, suburban, and rural counties), while Democratic presidential candidates are strongest in urban counties (which represent 54 percent of the votes cast), the change from 2012 to 2016 showed a widening gap between the parties' presidential candidates in both suburban and rural counties:

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Generational Turnout in North Carolina

On Twitter, in a thread following the release of a new Pew Research Center analysis on the Millennial generation and the "generation gap" in American politics, I was asked about the turnout rates for that generation in comparison to older cohorts (Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Greatest/Silent generations). Having worked with data from the NC State Board of Elections, it's relatively easy to perform this analysis for the Old North State, based on elections since 2008.

In using voter registration files from the general election years and merging those records with data on voters who cast ballots in election years, the following analysis shows not just the turnout rates for each generation in an election year, but also each generation's composition within the voter registration pool and the actual electorate of voters casting ballots. The respective ages of each cohort in each election year are: