Research Papers and Projects

"Growing and Distinct: The Unaffiliated Voter as unmoored voter," by Michael Bitzer, Christopher Cooper, Whitney Ross Manzo, and Susan Roberts. Published in Social Science Quarterly. 

Using data from North Carolina's voter registration and history data files and public opinion polls from Meredith College, we find that Unaffiliated registrants are not simply shadow partisans but, on average, are distinct from two major parties in terms of demographics, political behavior, and political attitudes. Voters who eschew party labels are best understood as unmoored voters—often hovering close to their ideological docks but with no institutional constraint to keep them from drifting as the political tides shift.

"A Matter of Electoral Convenience: Early Voting in North Carolina, 2004-2018," presented at the 2020 Citadel Symposium on Southern Politics in March, 2020. 

This paper investigates the use of ‘early voting’ in North Carolina, through the methods of absentee by mail and absentee one-stop (in-person) compared to Election Day in-person voting from the 2004 to 2018 general elections. With the introduction of absentee voting in 2000 in North Carolina, substantial increases in voters have utilized early voting, especially one-stop absentee voting. Most notably, 2008’s election saw a majority of ballots cast due to the rise of the ‘early voter.’ This trend of early ballots as a majority of votes cast continued into subsequent presidential elections, but not necessarily in mid-term elections. In addition, analysis of who these early voters are has been limited in scope. This project explores eight general elections—four presidential and four mid-terms—and descriptively analyzes the frequency of early voting and who makes up these early voters, utilizing data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections for both voter history and voter registration.

"How Much Does Distance Matter to Voters? Changes to Early Voting Site Locations and the Impact on Voters in North Carolina's 2018 General Election," co-authored with Tyler Dukes, and presented at the 2020 Citadel Symposium on Southern Politics in March, 2020. 

This paper investigates changes in early vote location sites in the 2018 North Carolina mid-term election and the impact for previous early voters making a choice between early voting, voting on Election Day, or not voting at all. With passage of the 2018 state “Uniform and Expanded Early Voting Act,” North Carolina early voting was mandated to be open from 7 AM until 7 PM on weekdays, which increased the number of hours available statewide to cast a ballot. But this change also brought about a decline in the total number of early voting locations within 70 of 100 counties. Using the geographic placement and distance changes in these 70 counties, voter history and registration data, and how early voters from 2014 and 2016 responded to these changes from the 2014 locations to the 2018 locations, this paper demonstrates that distance changes in early vote locations has an impact on whether a previous early voter chooses to cast an early ballot, wait until Election Day to vote, or decide not to vote, especially among key demographic groups.