Friday, December 11, 2020

"A Sea of Red with a Bright Blue Dot Right in the Middle": The Politics of Western North Carolina

Dr. Chris Cooper of Western Carolina University talks with Spectrum News 1's "Capital Tonight" about the politics of Western North Carolina, which encapsulates "a real mix of worlds" including the "ripsters," the rural hipsters, the sense of being closer to other states' capitals than their own, and what we might expect from the youngest U.S. Representative from the mountain's 11th Congressional District.

"North Carolina Mountain Counties." Image courtesy of the
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Washington Post "Made by History" Blog Piece: Even if Georgia turns blue, North Carolina may not follow

by Michael Bitzer

One of the first Catawba graduates I had the pleasure of working with when I arrived at the college was Virginia Summey, who has since received her Ph.D. in history and teaches at UNC-Greensboro. She and I co-authored a piece that looks at North Carolina's 'battleground' status and what the state's modern political history might tell us, especially in relationship to the newcomer battleground state of Georgia.

You can access the piece at the Washington Post's "Made by History" blog

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

County Commissions in North Carolina: A Brief Review of Trends in Partisanship, Gender & Race

by Chris Cooper

It surprisingly difficult to keep track of all of the elections in North Carolina. Sure, most interested citizens know that Roy Cooper and Thom Tillis were re-elected. Many are probably aware that the Republicans maintained majorities in the General Assembly and some (the type of folks who read this blog) may even be aware of the results of the Council of State and the statewide judicial races. Unless you’re buried deep in the weeds, however, you’re unlikely to know much about what happened in the County Commission races outside of perhaps your home county.


Monday, November 30, 2020

The Fate of Appointed Senators

By Charles S. Bullock, III

The runoffs for Georgia’s two Senate seats are attracting national and even international attention since, for the first time in history, the outcome of a delayed selection process will determine which party controls that chamber.  Georgians are selecting two senators because of a partial term that must be filled.  

This is not the first time that the Peach State has chosen a senator to complete a term.  Since the 17th Amendment shifted senator selection from the state legislature to a vote by the public, five previous midterm vacancies have occurred beginning with Senator Augustus Bacon’s death in 1914.

How a Senate vacancy gets filled varies among states.  In Georgia, the governor appoints a fill-in who serves until the next regularly scheduled election.  

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Our Post-Election 2020 Analysis Vlog

Now that the "final" calls on various states have been made (but some NC races are still too close to call), the four of us gathered for our post-Election 2020 vlog where we breakdown some key takeaways and preliminary insights, and what we want to study some more about this consequential campaign season. 

Check us out on Youtube:

Or, if you want to listen as a podcast, check us out on SoundCloud: 

Friday, November 13, 2020

5 Things I Think I Know About the 2020 Election in North Carolina

By Chris Cooper

The election is over. Well, mostly. Sure, the President hasn’t conceded, we will have recounts for a variety of offices in North Carolina, there might be some litigation (it is North Carolina after all), and we don’t have individual level data on who voted (for that, we have to wait for the holy grail of North Carolina politics, The Voter History File, to be updated). Despite these significant limitations, there are a few conclusions that I feel (fairly) safe to make at this admittedly premature stage.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Five Take-aways from North Carolina's 2020 Same Day Registrations

By Chris Cooper

Note: This originally posted on November 2, 2020. 4,727 additional SDRs were processed and included in the November 3 data update. I updated the graph and data in number 1 below to account for the new data. The other points stayed constant. 


North Carolina citizens who are not registered to vote can complete "same day registration" throughout the early voting period (which ran from Oct 15-Oct 31 this year). Normally I'd throw a strained metaphor and a throat-clearing lead to try to hook you in, but given the volume of election coverage and everyone's declining patience, I'll just get to it. Here are five few quick take-aways from patterns in this year's same day registration data.   

Sunday, November 1, 2020

2020's Election Is All But Done...Except for Tuesday's Voting and Counting

By Michael Bitzer

The nation, and North Carolina, have finally arrived at this point: just two days before the final votes are cast in Election 2020, and then the counting begins on what is shaping up as a historic election, by pretty much any standard.

The level of early voting--with estimates of over 90 million ballots cast nation-wide before Tuesday, November 3--is certainly one for the record books, and especially in North Carolina's period of early voting, made up of both absentee by mail and absentee onestop, which most refer to as 'early voting in-person.' 

According to the U.S. Election Project, as of Sunday, Nov. 1., two-thirds of all the votes cast in 2016 have been already submitted in the 2020 election. 

In North Carolina, 2020's early ballots are 95 percent of all the votes cast in 2016, which equates to nearly 62 percent of the 7.3 million registered voters having already voted as we head into Tuesday's general election. It would only take another 238,000 voters to match 2016's total ballots cast; that 238,000 would be just 3 percent of the current 7.3 million, equating to 65 percent voter turnout. 

If past presidential election years are any indication, we should see registered voter turnout at least 69 percent:

In a realistic scenario, North Carolina could be looking at a low to mid-70 percent turnout rate when the polls close Tuesday night; meaning, anywhere from a potential 725,000 to 943,000 voters could show up on November 3, and that would give the state either a 72 or 75 percent registered voter turnout rate this year. 

So, here are a number of data points about what we know about NC's early votes, who has cast ballots so far, and what we should expect come Tuesday's final voting. Be prepared for a deep data dive into the numbers. 

How many North Carolinians have early voted?

Friday, October 30, 2020

Episode 3 of the Old North State Politics Vlog/Podcast

Welcome to the third episode of the Old North State Politics vlog, along with a podcast version.

On this episode, we spend some time talking about Election 2020, where we've been (exhausted) and where we may be headed (hopefully to a quick resolution post-Tuesday). 

If you want to watch the video, you can click below or go to YouTube and watch it there.

And if you want to listen to it as a podcast, check out the episode on SoundCloud

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Here's What We're Thinking About for November 3rd

Instead of a traditional run-down on the presidential and gubernatorial contests, the four of us decided to take a slightly bigger picture, and pose a series of questions about "what we're thinking about when November 3rd finally rolls around?" Here are some of our thoughts about what to be looking for and thinking about on the night the polls close; we didn't coordinate our questions and answers among ourselves, so if there's repetition, it's a pretty good bet that the topic is something worth considering very strongly. And yes, we could potentially disagree with each other, but we'll let the readers try and figure that aspect out. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

With a week of votes, 2020 NC's early votes are poised to meet and exceed 2016's totals

By Michael Bitzer

With a week of early votes (both absentee by mail and absentee onestop, which is the state's in-person voting method), North Carolina in 2020 is ready to meet the total number of early votes cast in all of 2016--and then exceed that total. 

As I've noted at the blog's twitter account each day this past week, the astronomical rise of early votes, by both mail and in-person, has been something that seems to put the Old North State on a record-breaking trajectory of total ballots cast. Of course, we won't know what that total is until the last ballots are cast on Election Day (and, honestly, that seems like it could be potentially a few days after November 3rd if the last of the absentee by mail ballots come in), but the pattern of 2008 to 2012 to 2016 of adding about 300,000 votes each subsequent election may be a bit low in looking at what 2020 is going to do. More on that later.

For the half-way point of NC's in-person early voting period, the comparison between 2016 and 2020 is just stunning.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Lay of the Political Landscape: NC's 13 Congressional Districts

This is another piece in a series regarding the 'state of the 2020 election' when it comes to the dynamics of North Carolina as we approach the November 3rd General Election. Prior to Election Day, we'll have companion pieces for the NC state house, gubernatorial, and presidential contests in the Old North State. 

In this post, each of us take several of NC's thirteen congressional districts and assess their characteristics for the general election. In most conventional analyses of the U.S. House races, one should not be surprised by a switch from 10 Republican-3 Democratic delegation to an 8-5 Republican-Democratic delegation (thanks to recent redrawing of the district lines and the centering in urban areas of two districts), though two may have the potential for some real interest when the polls close on November 3rd. 

We should note: while we present a lot of demographic and district-based characteristics, we are not attempt a predictive analysis of how these contests will come out; only the fundamentals found within each congressional district as an overview for helping to understand what may happen come November 3. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Two Weeks Out From Election Day, 1 out of 5 North Carolina Voters Have Voted

By Michael Bitzer

North Carolina's first four days of absentee onestop, which is commonly referred to as in-person early voting, have seen record numbers of voters casting ballots. When combined with the exponential amount of absentee by mail ballots returned and accepted, twenty percent of North Carolina's 7.2 million registered voters have already banked their ballots, with two weeks still to go before Election Day.

This post gives several dynamics of the absentee ballots through Sunday, October 18, and then I'll do another blog update on Saturday, October 24, to look at the first full week's worth of data. For daily updates of these numbers, be sure to check out the blog's Twitter account @OldNorthStPol for data threads, or my Twitter account @BowTiePolitics for some analysis of the numbers and trends. 

Through Sunday, October 18, the total number of accepted absentee ballots stands at 1,526,968, with 918,224 coming from absentee onestop (in-person) and 608,744 coming from absentee by mail ballots. 

The following chart shows the tremendous daily growth in comparison to 2016's daily numbers.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Lay of the Political Landscape: New NC Voters--What Do We Know About Who Are They?

By Michael Bitzer and Chris Cooper

This is another piece in a series regarding the 'state of the 2020 election' when it comes to the dynamics of North Carolina as we approach the November 3rd General Election. Prior to Election Day, we'll have companion pieces for the state house, congressional, gubernatorial, and presidential contests in the Old North State. 

Given North Carolina's well-established position as a battleground state, it is not surprising that national political commentators are finding reasons to delve into voter registration and voter history trends in the Old North State. Armed with voter registration data that are available to anyone with a keyboard and a decent wi-fi connection, commentators and analysts are able to make conclusions about the size, shape, and scope of various constituencies within North Carolina's electorate. 

Given the relevance of these data to answer all sorts of critical question, the disparate results that some of these various analyses reveal, and our own penchant for working with these data for many years, we thought we'd take the opportunity to share snapshot at new registered voters in North Carolina--a question that should be relevant to anyone who wants to understand whether and how the Old North State is changing.

Friday, October 16, 2020

NC's First Day of Absentee In-Person Vote Breaks The Record

By Michael Bitzer

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is 'expect the unexpected.'

As we have seen across the nation, but especially in states like Georgia and Texas, early voting (in-person) has exceeded all expectations and has, in fact, been very unexpected in terms of the numbers. 

And North Carolina, in its first day of in-person early voting yesterday, didn't disappoint.

In fact, with 333,134 accepted absentee onestop (the official term for in-person early voting) recorded on October 15, North Carolina surpassed the past three presidential election years numbers for the most one-day early votes cast ever. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

A Month Out from the Deadline, Some Observations on NC's Exponential Absentee by Mail Ballots

By Michael Bitzer

To say that the four of us (Chris Cooper, Whitney Ross Manzo, Susan Roberts, and myself) have been a wee-bit busy over the past few weeks would be a serious understatement. Personally, it has felt like the last week and throes of October's heated campaign, but it's only the end of September. And thus, it's 2020.

But with North Carolina now a month out from the deadline for requesting an absentee by mail ballot (Oct. 27), it's probably a good time to take a step back and look at some trends within the data. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Southern Path to the White House

by Charles S. Bullock, III

In media reviews of the prospects for a change in White House occupancy, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin occupy center stage.  Had Donald Trump not knocked these states out of the Blue Wall, he would be firing reality show contestants rather than cabinet members.  Trump won the three states by a combined total of less than show up in most SEC stadiums for football games in non-COVID years.  If Trump loses these states in 2020, it is unlikely that he will win reelection and, accordingly, Trump and his surrogates are campaigning there. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Lay of the Political Landscape: One For The Books: The Hagan – Tillis 2014 Senate Race

By Susan Roberts

Going into 2020, we are awaiting the outcome of the Trump-Biden showdown, but we need to remind ourselves that every single House and Senate race has its own story to tell.  Following last night's first debate between incumbent Republican Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, here is a brief case study of 2014 race between then Democratic Incumbent Senator Kay Hagan and Republican challenger and Speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives Thom Tillis. If you skip the rest of the article, here are three takeaways that capture the tenor and substance of this race:

  • One, the wave giveth, and the wave taketh away. 
  • Two, follow the money. 
  • Three, you can call North Carolina a battleground state or a swing state or a purple state, just call it competitive and critical.

My focus here is on the Hagan-Tillis race, but I can’t resist the temptation to begin with a few preliminary similarities between the 2014 and current 2020 North Carolina Senate races. Of course, I am speaking as if 2020 is over, but I think these distinctions will remain. Both elections were labelled “toss-ups” by Larry Sabato of Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report. Both campaigns could capitalize on high presidential disapproval by tethering the incumbent, Hagan to Obama and Tillis to Trump. Both 2014 and 2020 were held during voting law confusion. And sadly, both campaigns were dealing with global health emergencies, Ebola in 2014 and Coronavirus in 2020. 

Monday, September 14, 2020