by Michael Bitzer and Christopher Cooper
Last week, the number of registered Unaffiliated voters passed the number of Democratic voters to make Unaffiliated the largest group of registered voters in NC politics. This is a topic that we've written about recently as have some of the state's best journalists. Given the importance of last week's partisan eclipse, we thought it would be a good time to take an overview of what the data tell us about Unaffiliated voters in North Carolina.
As you can see from the graph below, the rise of Unaffiliated voters has been a long build that has only recently come to fruition. Unaffiliated voters hovered around 5 percent of the North Carolina electorate from 1977 (when the Unaffiliated category was first established) until 1988 when the Republicans first opened their primaries up to Unaffiliated voters. Prior to 1988, registrants were welcome to register as Unaffiliated, but doing so would lock them out of voting in any primary.