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Typically, older voters make up the plurality of mail-in absentee ballots in North Carolina, and this holds true so far, with voters over the age of 54 at nearly two-thirds of the requested ballots.
A breakdown of these generational cohorts by party registration:
With the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence on a substantial amount of the state, ballots sent out have lagged behind the requested numbers, with a little over 11,000 mailed out by various county boards of elections:
Finally, those ballots that have been returned and accepted as votes are only 180:
With the focus on congressional elections this year in the Old North State, districts 4 (a safe Democratic seat) and 9 (a competitive seat held by Republicans) continue to have the most requested ballots within the thirteen districts:
Comparing this year's numbers (same day) to the last mid-term election (in 2014, which had a highly competitive U.S. Senate race), the early numbers are quite impressive for registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters requesting ballots:
In looking at the accepted ballots, there is a considerable lag, however, in the comparison to 2014's same day totals for all three of the major party registration groups (Democratic, Republican, and unaffiliated):
Finally, I matched the current group of voters requesting mail ballots this year with data from the 2014 election, particularly with an interest in whether the current voters cast a ballot in 2014 or not, and if they did vote, what voting method did they use:
And then broke the top five numbers down by party registration:
With over two in ten voters not voting in 2014 but having requested a mail ballot this year, it will be interesting to watch this dynamic over time, especially when in-person early voting begins in October.
I'll be posting more graphs on my twitter handle (@OldNorthStPol or @BowTiePolitics) and will likely to a weekly update on Saturdays of mail ballots, with a daily update once in-person absentee voting begins.
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:
The racial composition so far shows white voters ahead of their percentage (69) of overall registered voters, with black/African-American voters below their voter registration percentage (22).
Update: I decided to look at the requested mail ballots by party registrations within each generational cohort:
While younger voters (those under the age of 37) are only a quarter of the requested ballots so far, they are more likely to be registered Democrats and unaffiliated, with only 14 percent being registered Republicans. But among all cohorts, significant pluralities are registered Democrats, with only the Greatest/Silent generation seeing a third of their requests come from registered Republicans.
Only 21 mail ballots have been returned and accepted, considerably down from the same days prior to the Election in 2014 for the three major party registrations (Democratic, Republican, and unaffiliated):
And the differences in returned and accepted ballots by day to 2014:
Granted, the numbers of accepted ballots will likely be delayed due to Hurricane Florence, but the requested numbers seem to show a distinctive up-tick from four years ago. Another aspect of these voters who have requested mail ballots so far is, did they vote in 2014's mid-term election, and if so, what was their vote method (absentee by mail, absentee in person, on Election Day, and so forth)?
The data from these 12,000+ mail ballot requesting voters and their 2014 vote methods are:
Almost half, or 48 percent so far, of the voters asking for a mail ballot in 2018 didn't vote in 2014's mid-term election. One quarter of this year's mail ballot requests are from voters who cast mail ballots four years ago, and 27 percent are from voters who voted in person, either early (absentee) or on Election Day.
The party registration of these voters, and if and how they voted in 2014, are:
Of those who didn't vote in 2014 but have requested a 2018 mail ballot, 45 percent are registered Democrats, 34 percent registered unaffiliated, and 20 percent registered Republicans.
Of those who voted by mail in 2014 and have requested mail ballots this year:
Of those who voted absentee onestop (in person early) in 2014 and have requested mail ballots this year:
And those who voted on Election Day in 2014 and have requested mail ballots this year:
I'll likely update these statistics on Wednesday and Saturday of next week, especially with the amount of issues the hurricane is causing in the state. Hope everyone is safe out there.
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.
To give a sense of the differences in congressional districts and the leading Democratic votes coming in, the following graph shows that the largest number of Democratic mail-in requests are in the open 9th District, a competitive district, following by the safe Democratic 4th District:
Only 12 mail-in ballots have been accepted so far in 2018, compared to 89 on this same day before Election Day. Below is the full comparison leading up to Election Day of accepted mail-in ballots:
Again, it is important to note two things: first, that caution should be exercised to not over-interpret the numbers of requests so far by party registration, and second, that we won't know what the results are from these mail-in accepted ballots until election evening when the polls close. But voter energy and enthusiasm may be demonstrated by how many registered partisans (and unaffiliated voters) request and return mail-in ballots, along with showing up to vote by absentee in-person voting, which starts on October 17, leading into the November 6 Election Day.
Courtesy of the
As a reminder: only 12 ballots have been accepted so far.
By generation, it should not be surprising that Baby Boomers are the plurality so far in requesting ballots.
And by congressional districts, with special interest on the 9th and 13th, and potentially the 2nd and 8th districts:
What is interesting is that the two highest Democratic registered voter requests for mail ballots are from the 4th (a very strong Democratic district) and the
This is still early in the process, and with Hurricane Florence in the state for the next few days, we may see a slowdown of mail ballot requests and mailings going out until the waters recede. But votes are coming in, and while we don't know who they voted for, we do know who are voting and where. If you'd like to know of any other demographic information that can be gleaned from the data, please send me an e-mail or a tweet.
Much has been
As noted from 2012 to 2016's presidential elections, the "gulf" between how each of the three areas voted widened: from a 12 to 15 point difference and Democratic advantage in urban counties, to a 32 point difference and Republican advantage in suburban counties and a 19 point Republican advantage in rural counties. Thus, North Carolina's counties are seeing a distinct divide, but it's more a Democratic urban versus Republican combined suburban and rural counties.
But looking at urban counties doesn't quite capture a full picture of urban political behavior, since most of North Carolina's major urban cities, such as Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, and Asheville, among many, don't necessarily "fill" their respective counties completely. For example, while Democratic Charlotte does
While urban counties hold 54 percent of the 6.9 million registered voters in the state, the central city holds slightly under 30 percent of the state's total, with over a quarter of voters in the suburban areas outside the central city but still within the urban county. However, there is a stark difference between the central city party affiliations (registered Democrats at nearly half of the central city voters) while suburban voters in the same urban county are evenly divided into thirds.
When you move into the surrounding suburban counties is when you find the Republican advantage of those areas, with nearly 40 percent of registered voters as Republican.
When looking at the racial composition of voters in these areas:
Not surprising, urban "central cities" have the greatest racial diversity among the categories, while surrounding suburban counties have the least diverse voter pool.
Among the growing
Over 40 percent of central city voters are under the age of 37 (Millennials and Generation Z cohorts), while Baby Boomers make up the largest plurality in other areas; in suburban areas outside of the central city but in an urban county, however, Baby Boomers will be competing very soon with Millennials and Gen Z for plurality status among registered voters.
Especially noteworthy in this election cycle has been the
While white females are generally more Republican in registration in their state numbers, central city white females are evenly Democratic or unaffiliated at 34 percent each, with 31 percent being registered Republicans. But in the other areas, registered Republicans are the plurality, with 44 percent of suburban county white females registered as Republicans.
In comparison to men, who are more Republican across the state than female voters, the trends are slightly different in central cities, but more aligned (albeit more GOP) in the other three areas:
In watching the 2018 elections in North Carolina, with its blue moon cycle and the focus on U.S. House races, the dynamic of seeing how central city and suburban voters, both inside urban counties and in surrounding counties, will react and cast their ballots may give some sense of how things will develop for the November contest. Just a reminder: voting in North Carolina begins in only 32 days from this posting, with absentee voting (by mail) beginning on September 7.
Included in the wealth of data provided by the NC State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement is a
Of the voters who switched parties, 45 percent of them were formerly registered as Democrats, 29 percent were registered as Republicans, and 25 percent of them were registered unaffiliated. The registration that benefited the most, not surprisingly, was the unaffiliated category, with 57 percent, while 21 percent switched to Republicans and 20 percent switched to Democratic registration.
To begin with, I broke this data set into two primary categories: by generational cohorts and by gender, with a look at how younger versus older voters behaved in switching their party registration, and if gender showed any differences between women and men in switching their party registrations.
The vast majorities of former registered Republicans went to "unaffiliated" voter status among all generation cohorts. For those who were originally registered as Democratic:
Younger generations were much more likely to go unaffiliated, while older voters were more prone to switch from Democratic to Republican.
Finally, among those voters who were registered with neither major political party, and thus "unaffiliated":
Younger voters, Generation Z and Millennials, were more likely to register as Democratic, while the oldest voters, the Greatest and Silent generations, were equally dispersed between the two major parties from an unaffiliated status.
Next, using gender to differentiate (women are 54 percent of party switchers, with men at 44 percent), I ran the same analysis as with the generations; first, voters by who were registered Democratic but switched:
Men tended to have a slight more Republican switch from their previous Democratic registration in comparison to women, but not by much (28 percent of Democratic men going to the GOP compared to 25 percent of Democratic women going to the GOP). However, 70 percent or more of both formerly registered Democratic men and women went to unaffiliated party status.
Next, those who were registered Republican but switched:
Conversely, women tended to go slightly more Democratic than men, but only a few points (19 percent of women registered Democratic from Republican, while 15 percent of formerly GOP-registered men went to the Democrats). Again, like their opposite partisans, significant numbers of formerly registered Republicans went unaffiliated among both genders.
Finally, those who were registered unaffiliated and switched to a party registration (Democratic, Republican, or one of the minor parties--Libertarian, Green, or Constitution):
Nearly two-thirds of formerly registered unaffiliated women registered with the Democratic Party, while one third registered with the Republicans. Conversely, 55 percent of formerly registered unaffiliated men registered Democratic, with 41 percent registering with as Republican (the remaining percentages went to one of the three minor parties).
Here are the raw numbers for women:
And for men:
While the overall percentage of party switchers is small (less than 1 percent among the 6.9 million registered voters in the Old North State), this information presents some intriguing trends among the voters in North Carolina and how some voters may enter new political affiliations (or lack thereof with unaffiliated status) in their voter registration.
With the pending
- The northern part of Mecklenburg County (above the City of Charlotte) is generally deep red, with the exception of the precinct that is home to Davidson College
- A good portion of Charlotte's "core" is deep blue
- When you get into the areas of South Charlotte, such as Myers Park and South Park leading down to the South Carolina state line, it looks like a "Republican wedge"
- Very few precincts are green, meaning a competitive or toss-up precinct based
Next, the PVIs for the 2008-12 presidential election:
Now, notice a couple of key differences between this map and the one with the 2004-08 PVIs:
- North Mecklenburg (above the Charlotte city limits) precincts are beginning to transition, from deep red (likely GOP) to light red (lean GOP), with one precinct going to competitive/toss-up status
- Within the middle of the county, Charlotte core precincts move to deep blue (likely Democratic) across the swath of most of the city
- The south Charlotte "Republican wedge" begins to fade from deep red to spots of light red and green, especially along the south-eastern border of the city
Now, the third map shows the PVIs for the 2012-16 averages:
Note the following in this map:
- The collapse of the "Republican wedge" in South Charlotte towards a competitive/toss-up status
- The solidification of the core Charlotte precincts towards deep blue (likely Democratic)
- The continued transition of north Mecklenburg County towards a competitive/toss-up or lean Republican behavior
- Very few "likely Republican" precincts are left, when compared to the 2004-08 map, in the county (the northwestern and southeastern precincts of the county)
To say that Charlotte has become a "Democratic" city is an understatement; just look at last year's mayoral contest to see it align more closely with its typically voting patterns in even-year elections. And with the Queen City becoming such a blue-dominated area, the reaction against having a candidate be renominated in a county that barely one-third of the voters cast their ballots for, is there any wonder why such an uproar is occurring?
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.
For non-lawyers, "standing" is an important component in any legal action that must be shown by those bringing the legal action. Standing has been defined by SCOTUS as being "1., the plaintiff must have suffered an 'injury in fact,' meaning that the injury is of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent; 2., there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct brought before the court; and, 3., it must be likely, rather than speculative, that a favorable decision by the court will redress the injury."
So, in order to bring legal action against another party, the plaintiff must show harm to their legal interest (such as a constitutional liberty or right) in a non-theoretical or "at some point in the future" time, show that there is a connection between the harm suffered and the conduct that is alleged to make the harm, and that the court has some potential means by which to resolve that harm if the court finds in favor of the plaintiff.
First, a bit of "30,000 foot" view: at the heart of the controversy over partisan gerrymandering is the question "when can a court say 'this is partisan gerrymander' or it isn't?" At times, it reminds me of the legal notion of "I know it when I see it." In previous decisions, SCOTUS has said that partisan gerrymandering is one that is more "political" in nature, and when there is a political question of this sort, the courts will usually defer to the other branches of government to resolve the controversy. As noted in the beginning of the Gill case, Chief Justice Roberts traces the line of opinions and cases regarding partisan gerrymandering, beginning with a 1973 case from Connecticut where the court refused to deal with partisan gerrymandering because "districting 'inevitably has and is intended to have substantial political consequences.'" Subsequent cases have been all over the map, with some justices saying the courts can't make these kind of decisions (thus, partisan gerrymandering is non-justiciable) while other justices contend that the courts should weigh in, but with little agreement as to how best to weigh in on the controversial matter. One justice, Anthony Kennedy, gave hope in a 2004 case from Pennsylvania that he would be open to considering how best to judge partisan gerrymandering, if there was a sufficient standard of law by which the courts could consistently apply to future cases. In his concurrence, Justice Kennedy wrote about how he would envision a challenge to, and determining what is, partisan gerrymandering based on the First Amendment:
Some believed that the Gill case would be the opportunity to answer Justice Kennedy's challenge. However, before venturing into the merits, and thus the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering, SCOTUS asked that the lower court to revisit the Gill plaintiffs' standing regarding whether they had been injured by the partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin. In doing so, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, contended that "a plaintiff may not invoke federal-court jurisdiction unless he can show 'a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy'" and that a "federal court is not 'a forum for generalized grievances,' and the requirement of such a personal stake 'ensures that courts exercise power that is judicial in nature.'"
In particular, Chief Justice Roberts held that plaintiffs must contend that their individual district was "injurious;" claiming a state-wide injury, especially due to the election of a legislature that the plaintiff's believed were injurious to them (that is, the opposition party won and implemented policies that the plaintiffs disagreed with), was not something the court would consider. It seems that the court's majority wanted the individual plaintiff's to show that they lived in districts either "cracked" (where like-minded voters are separated from each other to dilute their voting power) or "packed" (where like-minded voters are crowded into a district, thus removing those voters, and their voting influence, from other districts and wasting their votes in a single district), thus causing the individual injuries.
In the end, writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts held that the Gill case "is a case about group political interests, not individual legal rights. But this Court is not responsible for vindicating generalized partisan preferences. The Court’s constitutionally prescribed role is to vindicate the individual rights of the people appearing before it." Thus, the plaintiffs must show the individual harms done in individual districts, rather than harm done to a group across the state.
And, as in many other cases, the Chief Justice wrote that "In cases where a plaintiff fails to demonstrate Article III standing, we usually direct the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims." BUT, Roberts went on to add: "This is not the usual case. It concerns an unsettled kind of claim this Court has not agreed upon, the contours and justiciability of which are unresolved. Under the circumstances, and in light of the plaintiffs’ allegations that Donohue, Johnson, Mitchell, and Wallace live in districts where Democrats like them have been packed or cracked, we decline to direct dismissal. We therefore remand the case to the District Court so that the plaintiffs may have an opportunity to prove concrete and particularized injuries using evidence—unlike the bulk of the evidence presented thus far—that would tend to demonstrate a burden on their individual votes."
In the Rucho case from North Carolina, the issue of standing was challenged by the legislative defendants against the plaintiff's bringing the suit, and the three-judge panel addressed the issue of standing as "we conclude that Plaintiffs have standing to raise statewide and district-by-district partisan gerrymandering challenges to the 2016 Plan."
In doing so, the judges, under the opinion of Circuit Judge Wynn, held that along with the NC Democratic Party and two non-profit organizations, individual voters made up the plaintiffs and alleged that they were injured in the following manner (bulleted for ease of reading):
- "vote dilution;
- elected representatives who, with victory all-but assured, are less willing to engage in democratic dialogue and meaningfully consider contrary viewpoints;
- statewide chilling of association and discourse through decreased democratic participation, fundraising, and candidate recruitment;
- increased statewide costs for voter education and candidate recruitment; and
- a statewide congressional delegation that fails to adequately reflect the interests of all North Carolina voters."
One set of plaintiffs, those associated with the Common Cause suit, "who reside in all thirteen congressional districts—claim that they have standing to assert both statewide and district-by-district challenges to the 2016 Plan under the Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article I."
Conversely, the NC legislative defendants believed that the plaintiffs lacked standing for three reasons:
- "(1) a plaintiff may not rely on statewide standing to challenge an entire congressional redistricting plan as a partisan gerrymander;
- (2) individual Plaintiffs lack standing to lodge both statewide and district-by-district challenges because they have not suffered constitutionally cognizable injuries-in-fact; and
- (3) organizational Plaintiffs lack standing because no individual member has standing and no organizational Plaintiff suffered a concrete harm attributable" to the state's 2016 congressional redistricting plan.
The three-judge panel rejected the legislative defendants' claims against the individual plaintiff's standing, but seemed to rely on the "statewide" standing argument, contending that "like the malapportionment of congressional districts, these injuries reflect structural violations amenable to statewide standing" (page 36). Additionally, the district court found that "in drawing the 2016 (congressional district) Plan, the General Assembly sought to achieve a statewide partisan effect. In such circumstances, we find it appropriate to view the 2016 Plan as inflicting a statewide partisan injury" (emphasis added). This may be the key area--statewide versus individual--that the district court has to review its reasoning.
In concluding their analysis of the standing challenges, the NC district court held that "(e)ven absent statewide standing, because Plaintiffs reside in each of the state’s thirteen districts and have all suffered injuries-in-fact, Plaintiffs, as a group, have standing to lodge district-by-district challenges to the entire 2016 Plan" (emphasis added). It is likely that the district court's upcoming review of the potential individual standing and injury questions will focus more heavily, and more fully explain, the individual, district-by-district standing argument of each plaintiff in order to meet the Gill standards laid out by SCOTUS.
As of June 2, 2018, there was nearly 7 million registered voters in the Old North State, a one percent increase since the
Since the beginning of 2018, the youngest generational cohorts are seeing a majority of the new registrants:
The monthly percentages for the generational cohorts show a distinct uptick in Gen Z (18-21 years old) in March and April, but slipped back to their usual percentage in May:
Notably, the newest voters in North Carolina continue to shun both political parties in terms of party registration:
This unaffiliated trend continues to be driven by the newest and youngest generations, who are moving towards half of new registrants going unaffiliated. The trend lines for each generation, since the beginning of the year, are shown, with the youngest voters (18-21 years old) of the Generation Z cohort:
Millennials, or those who are 22 to 37 years old:
Generation Xers, who are 38 to 53 years old:
Baby Boomers, ages 54 to 73 years old:
And the oldest generations, silent and Greatest, over the age of 74 years old:
When it comes to the racial breakdown of NC voters, white voters continue to be plurality registered Republicans and the only racial group with a GOP plurality:
Among the urban/suburban/rural regionalism of the state, suburban county voters are a registered Republican plurality, while both urban and rural county voters are plurality Democratic. It is important to note, however, that urban and rural county voters are uniquely different:
While both urban and rural voters are registered Democratic pluralities, the reason for rural county voters can be attributed to the rural black belt counties in the state, along with a generation of older white NC voters who registered Democratic, but are likely more Republican in voter behavior.
Finally, per monthly registration totals, urban counties saw a recent uptick in their percentage of May's registered voters.
As we enter the dog days of summer, when most will turn their minds away from politics, the run-up to the fall campaign will be determined by who is registered and then who shows up in turnout. With the fall ballot races generally set (except for upcoming judicial races and localized races), the ground work of getting citizens to register will likely be a key focus for campaign operatives of both parties over the summer, with the heat of the fall campaign focused on both registering and then organization and "getting out the vote" activities.
Today's post-primary blog
First, voter turnout varied widely by the counties within the district, especially when compared to the state-wide voter turnout of 14.27%:
- Anson: 16.72%
- Bladen: 25.6%
- Cumberland: 10.89%
- Mecklenburg: 11.04%
- Richmond: 16.85%
- Robeson: 29.45%
- Scotland: 20.37%
- Union: 11.8%
Of the counties with turnout rates above the state turnout rate (Robeson, Bladen, Scotland, Richmond, and Anson), three counties are wholly contained in the 9th and had Democratic sheriff primaries: Anson, Robeson, and Scotland (for non-southerners, sheriffs can be a highly sought-after and historically powerful local official in the South). Another county, Bladen County, had a Democratic sheriff primary race, but that county is split between the 7th and 9th districts, while Mecklenburg County is divided between two congressional districts (the 9th and 12th) and had a Democratic sheriff's race. Union County did not have a Democratic contest for sheriff.
Within the three counties that had the highest voter turnout in the 9th, could one see a difference or similarity between the Democratic congressional race and sheriff's races? Here are the comparison (unofficial) vote totals for the Democratic primaries for Congress and sheriff in Anson, Robeson, and Scotland counties:
|Democratic Congressional Contest||Democratic Sheriff Contest|
In these three counties combined, 3,367 more votes were cast for the Democratic sheriff's races than for the congressional contests. In Bladen County's precincts that are in the 9th, 13 more votes were cast ballots in the county's sheriff primary than in the Democratic congressional primary. In Cumberland County's precincts that are in the 9th, 285 more votes were cast in the Democratic sheriff's primary than in the Democratic congressional primary.
When a contest with a higher number of votes is compared to another contest with a lower total number of votes on the same ballot, there is said to be "drop off" or "roll off" from one contest to the other, typically moving from top to bottom of the ballot. The most common example of drop off is when the U.S. presidential race is at the "top" of the ballot and garners the most total votes cast, while the subsequent 'down-ballot' races tend to see fewer votes cast due to voter drop-off/roll-off, often attributed to lack of voter interest or knowledge. And even though the congressional primaries were at the "top" of this primary ballot, with the sheriffs' races down the ballot, it appears that in some counties on the Democratic side, the reverse happened: the sheriff's race attracted the most attention, with the congressional election getting second ballot billing by the voters.
When comparing vote totals for sheriff (measured as 100 percent) vs. congressional primary on the Democratic ballot, Anson's 9th congressional district vote was 93 percent of the sheriff's vote, Scotland's 9th vote was 88 percent of the sheriff's race, and Robeson's 9th vote was 85 percent of that county's sheriff's race.
In comparison, one of the other 9th district counties that had a Democratic sheriff's primary contest--Mecklenburg--saw an almost equal sum total in the precincts that had both the sheriff's race (10,769 votes) and the 9th district race (10,788 votes) (a note: in Mecklenburg, the 2nd precinct is split between the 9th and 12th districts, so I excluded both the congressional vote and sheriff vote from this comparison of the vote totals).
In thinking about the Democratic contests in the 9th Congressional District, one could consider that the competitiveness of, and voters' interests in, several sheriff's races may have provided a boast in numbers to the McCready-Cano contest. Of the 45,660 votes cast in the district for the two congressional Democrats, 48.8 percent, or 22,317 votes, came out of Anson, Robeson, and Scotland counties combined. The sheriff's races in these rural counties may have driven the votes to congressional race, and thus a perception of enthusiasm and energy, in the Democratic primary for the district as a whole.
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
The other major component to this race was the increased voter turnout. Granted, 2016's primary was held in June after a court decision redrew the congressional district lines, and so the depressed voter turnout was to be expected. But the increase from 26,600 votes in 2016 to nearly 35,500 votes was due to the smaller counties in the district seeing significant jumps in voters casting ballots: while Mecklenburg saw a 6 percent increase and Union County saw a 28 percent increase, several other counties saw tremendous jumps: Bladen with 169 percent increase, Cumberland with a 106 percent increase, Richmond with 154 percent increase, Robeson with a 174 percent increase, and Scotland with a 102 percent increase. Overall, 33 percent more voters participated in the GOP 9th Congressional primary contest than did in 2016.
As I've talked with reporters following the fall-out of the first Republican incumbent to Congress being denied renomination in this election cycle, the typical reasons for incumbents not regaining their party's nomination is typically due to a significant scandal, loss of trust among the partisan base voters, or being in their first term and seeking their first nomination. The "first re-election" bid reason is typically the most vulnerable for first-term officials, and this was probably the case in point. It could also be due to the fact that the party's base, so closely aligned to the Trump "outsider to D.C." philosophy, may have played a role as well in this incumbent defeat.
The second observation, staying at the NC congressional level, is the strength of Democratic primary candidates who won, especially Dan McCready in the 9th Congressional District. While we don't have a clear platform to assess the Democratic "wave" that many are expecting, it is notably that in the 9th, both Republican Pittenger and Harris had a lower combined vote total than did McCready, and that more voters in the 9th took the Democratic ballot than the Republican ballot.
The other Democratic primary winner of the night was the 13th's Kathy Manning, who secured 70 percent of her primary vote to face Republican incumbent and first-term Ted Budd. The 9th and the 13th are looking to be the marquee congressional races in the Old North State come this fall, due to the sense of ideal Democratic candidates for the district and their proven fundraising prowess so far.
The third observation to Tuesday's primaries: the localized losses of state legislative incumbents. Two state Democratic incumbents and five state Republican incumbents to the NC General Assembly lost their renomination bids. The likelihood is that many of these defeats were very localized, but it is striking that incumbency was not as safe a bet as it has been in the past.
Finally, Tuesday's voter turnout--or more realistically, the lack thereof. In 2014's mid-term election, a state-wide voter turnout rate was 15.79 percent, with a highly competitive Republican U.S. Senate nomination battle between Thom Tillis and Mark Harris, among others. This primary saw a voter turnout of 14.25 percent, which was around the "15-ish" percent that I had thought we would see. Now, some would argue, hey, that's pretty good considering that there wasn't a state-wide race this primary and you almost matched 2014's number. Yes, but still: for many offices, this election was the final/general election because of the lack of an opposing candidate for the fall's general election. So, 85 percent of North Carolina's 6.9 million voters stayed home, went to work, and did something other than cast their voice and vote in determining who would represent them. In other words, the voice and vote of the 15 percent who did show up was a lot louder and more powerful.
Now that we have the early votes cast in North Carolina's primary election, a "whopping"
Of the 290,000 plus ballots cast and accepted as of May 7, 2018, nearly 173,000 were Democratic primary ballots, while the GOP primary garnered a little under 120,000 ballots. Among unaffiliated voters, 52 percent of them selected the GOP primary ballot, to 47 percent selecting the Democratic ballot.
As noted above, 80 percent of the Democratic primary ballots came from registered Democrats, while 69 percent of GOP primary ballots were cast by registered Republicans.
With no major state-wide race in the state for the primary, the action this "blue-moon" election cycle in the Old North State will be at the congressional and state legislative district levels. In looking at the congressional districts and the primary ballots:
The 1st and 9th congressional districts have the largest percentages of early ballots coming in; while there's no contested Democratic nomination for Congress (G.K. Butterfield's district), the 9th district has both a heavily competitive Republican and Democratic ballot contest for the nominations. Interestingly, the Democratic ballots had over 21,000 accepted early to the 11,000 plus accepted GOP ballots. It will be interesting to see the total difference between the two parties once tonight's totals are tallied.
Finally, all the talk of a "younger" voter enthusiasm hasn't played out when it comes to early voting in this year's NC primary:
Voters under the age of 37 years old (Millennials and Generation Z) were only 11 percent of the early votes cast, with Baby Boomers and older voters being 71 percent of the early votes.
Some of the key races that I'll be watching at the congressional level tonight are:
- the Republican contest for the 9th congressional district between Pittenger & Harris, along with the Democrat's contest in the same congressional district between McCready & Cano;
- the Democratic contest for the 13th congressional district to go against first-term GOP representative Ted Budd;
- the Republican contest for the 3rd congressional district (nobody expects Walter Jones to go down to one of his party opponents, but it's always one that generates interest); and,
- the Republican contest for the 10th congressional district against Patrick McHenry (not suspecting that McHenry will be defeated, but what percentage of the vote does his five opponents pull).
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
Barely 11 percent of the 187,000 ballots requested so far are to voters under the age of 37, with party ballots selected within each generation cohort here:
As should be noted, when it comes to party ballots, voters within the two partisan registrations (Democrats and Republicans) can only select their party primary ballots, but unaffiliated voters in NC can selected either party ballot (but only one party primary). Breaking down party registration within the cohorts so far for early voters shows distinctive partisan interests by generations, especially among unaffiliated registered voters:
Of the Gen Z early voters so far who are registered unaffiliated, 61 percent picked Democratic ballots compared to 36 percent selecting the Republican ballot.
Among Millennial unaffiliated voters who have cast early ballots so far, 58 percent picked the Democratic ballot to 40 percent selecting the Republican ballot.
The change in unaffiliated voter selecting partisan ballots shifts with Generation X, with 49 percent selecting the Republican and 48 percent selecting the Democratic ballot.
A clear majority (55 percent) of registered unaffiliated Baby Boomers have selected the Republican primary ballot to 43 percent picking the Democratic ballot.
And among older voters who are registered unaffiliated, 60 percent chose the Republican primary ballot to 38 percent Democratic.
Turning to the hotly contested 9th Congressional District races, the following graphs within each county of the 9th (that
And among the partisan primary ballots requested:
So far, among Democratic ballots for the McCready-Cano contest, nearly half of the early ballots are coming from Robeson County, while the Pittenger-Harris-Goins contest is drawing a disproportionate percentage from Union County. To give a sense of where the 2016 dust settled between Harris and Pittenger and the third candidate in that race, here are graphs from that June contest that may be somewhat similar to this year's contest (i.e., a low voter turnout):
Within the eight counties of the 9th District, Mecklenburg (home to Charlotte) lead with 44 percent of the total votes, while Union (a suburban county to Mecklenburg) contributed 40 percent of the votes cast.
Pittenger's base was strongly centered in Mecklenburg County, while he was able to get less than a third of his votes from Union County. The vast majority of Harris' votes went almost evenly between Union and Mecklenburg County, with the third candidate, Johnson, drawing almost a majority of his votes from Union.
The key counties for this year's contest may again be Union and/or Mecklenburg. Based on early votes so far within the GOP primary, Union has 40 percent of the early ballots cast as of May 2. Will Pittenger be able to use the power of incumbency to secure a renomination, or can Harris draw on his former Union County strength from 2016 and attract the former Johnson voters in that county to his side?
Finally, in the state's last "blue-moon" election cycle, the 2006 primary election held in May that year attracted 12 percent of the state's 5.4 million registered voters. If we finish early voting (on Saturday, May 5) with a little over 3 percent of the state's voters casting early ballots, could we see these early votes as either a fourth or a fifth of the total ballots to come in for the primary election? My guess at this point: when we close the polls on next Tuesday, probably 15 percent state-wide voter turnout as a total, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if it was less.
In a discussion on* chart updated with national percentages to give context to the regions and corrected suburban percentages.
In 2012, approximately two-thirds of the votes cast came from the 552 central counties/urban counties; these urban counties are seventeen percent of the 3,100 total counties in the nation. The 610 suburban/surrounding counties delivered 18 percent of the votes cast in 2012. Micropolitan counties (637) delivered nine percent of the votes, and rural counties (1,310) delivered seven percent of the votes cast.
As the graph depicts above, urban counties went 55 percent for Obama in 2012, while suburban counties and micropolitan areas went 54 percent for Romney. Rural counties went 61 percent for the Republican presidential candidate.
Comparing it to 2016's presidential totals and percentages in the four categories, the "gap" between the partisan camps stayed in all four: 56 percent of the urban vote went to Clinton, while 54 percent of the suburban vote went for Trump. The largest jumps, however, were in the micropolitan and rural areas: 63 percent and 64 percent for the Republican, respectively.
In 2016, urban counties delivered 63 percent of the nation's votes, with suburban counties delivering 20 percent, micropolitan areas delivering 9 percent, and rural counties delivering 8 percent of the total two-party votes in the nation.
In looking at North Carolina's urban, suburban, micropolitan, and rural county dynamics in both 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, some differences are apparent between the Old North State and national trends:
* chart updated with state percentages to give context to the regions.
The urban counties are quite similar to the national trends, with the exception of Trump performing lower in North Carolina's urban counties than he did in urban counties across the nation. The striking difference among NC's suburban counties to the nation is the significantly larger Republican performance in both 2012 and 2016, while NC's micropolitan and rural counties were basically identical to each other.
To give a sense of the current dynamics of North Carolina's regions (combining both micropolitan and rural counties together), the following data is from the April 7, 2018 voter registration data from the
North Carolina suburban counties are the most Republican in the state, with urban counties seeing the least Republican registration. While rural counties appear to be a plurality of registered Democrats, one needs to remember that these voters tend to be: minorities in the two "black belt" swaths of the state in the eastern part and white, older voters who may be registered Democrats but are Republican voters.
Racially, the three regions see distinct differences:
While urban counties are the most racially diverse, suburban NC counties are the most homogeneous, with rural counties tending to reflect the state-wide averages.
Finally, the generational composition of the three regions:
Not surprising, 36 percent of urban county voters are under the age of 37, while suburban counties have 45 percent of their voters, and rural counties with 48 percent of their voters, over the age of 54.
With suburbs the new fascination of political analysts, the dynamics of voter behavior shows urban voters aligned against suburban and rural voters, at both the national and North Carolina level. While suburbs may be this year's political fixation as to "battleground" status, the battle seems lopsided, at least from the data.
This week, the North Carolina Democratic Party
For state senate Republican candidates, the Trump vote in the district explains 95.1 percent (based on a
The adjusted R-squared value for state house GOP candidates was 0.82, meaning that eighty-two percent of the state house Republican candidate's vote can be explained by the district's Trump vote.*
Taking this relationship between the Trump and Republican candidates' votes, one could use the Trump vote in the district as a potential "proxy" for how Republicans might perform in a district.
Of course, North Carolina's legislative districts have
In the 2016 performance, two senate districts had Republicans elected where Trump's performance was below 45 percent, and two districts where Trump received between 45 and 50 percent.
As you move towards the new districts (labeled "2018" that takes the 2016 presidential results and calculates within the new district lines), five senate districts have Trump's 2016 vote performance below 50 percent (one district below 45 percent and four districts between 45 and 50 percent).
But as you look at the "wave" scenarios, a drop of 5 percentage points in Trump's 2016 district performances puts five senate seats below 45 percent Trump vote and another seven seats between 45-50 percent Trump vote. A larger wave of negative 8 percentage points puts eight senate seats below 45 percent, with another six below 50 percent. A reminder: majority status in the 50 seat chamber is 26 seats.
In the state house, where Republicans hold 75 seats:
Between the 2016 district lines and the 2018 district lines, Republicans could see one less district "vulnerable" in the less-than-50 percent scenario than they would have if the 2016 lines were in use this year.
But the wave dynamics paint a quickly deteriorating scenario; six house seats become under 45 percent Trump in the 5 point swing, with another eight seats landing in the 45-50 percent category. With an 8 point swing against the president's vote performance, eleven seats fall under 45 percent Trump and seventeen seats fall into the 45-50 percent category. In the NC House, the majority needed for control is 61 seats.
To return back to the start of this blog post with the Democrats
If 2018 is a repeat of 2016's performance, five Democratic-targeted house seats held by Republicans would have a Trump vote below 50 percent, with another seven current GOP house seats targeted by Democrats in the 50-55 percent range. In the state senate, four GOP-held districts are below 50 percent Trump vote, with another seven in the 50-55 percent range, that Democrats have targeted.
And in the scenario where there's a five percentage point wave against Trump:
In the state house, twelve GOP-held seats targeted by Democrats are under 50 percent Trump vote, with another fifteen in the competitive 50-55 percent Trump range. In the state senate, eleven GOP-held seats are below 50 percent Trump vote that Democrats have their sites set on, with another five in the competitive 50-55 percent Trump range.
While presidential performance is not a "perfect" predictor of Republican vote performance down the ballot, mid-term elections tend to be referendums on the president's party. And some early polling in North Carolina shows that Republicans are being impacted on "generic" contests in this blue-moon election: in a recent High Point University poll, spreads of 3 to 5 percentage points for Democrats over Republicans were reported for state legislative and congressional contests, all within the poll's margin of error. And with the same poll showing President Trump's approval rating at only 40 percent, North Carolina may be mirroring the national environment that Republicans find themselves competing in for the coming months, though it seems like the state is not quite where national numbers are for the generic ballot.
Another important factor is voter enthusiasm/motivation. In the February 2018 Elon University Poll, when asked "How motivated do you feel to get out and vote this year--extremely motivated, very motivated, somewhat motivated, not too motivated, or not at all motivated?", 72 percent of self-identified Democrats said they were "extremely motivated" to 59 percent of self-identified Republicans and 55 percent of self-identified independents (page 16).
One more important factor perhaps related to voter enthusiasm/motivation is voter turnout in the general election; as this post points out, North Carolina registered Republicans tend to have an advantage in recent mid-term elections when it comes to turnout rates.
I would caution that this presidential-district performance analysis should not to be used for "predictive" value, but if the trend of a close relationship between the president's performance and the relationship to Republican candidates holds, the question becomes: how big is the "swing" that results in a blue wave for November, and which GOP districts have the potential for getting "washed out" this fall?
* Update: due to typo in the House election results, the 11th House District was the Democratic candidate's election result rather than the Republican's result. The graph has been corrected, and the adjusted R-squared value increased from 0.75 to 0.82.
On Wednesday, April 11, I will be a panelist at Charlotte Preparatory School's
In general, at least three-quarters to 97 percent of partisans (strong, not strong, and independent-leaning partisans) will vote for their party's presidential candidates. In the middle, pure independents (typically less than ten percent of the electorate) are the voters who cast a divided vote for president.
This political loyalty to one's party has developed over time, as noted in ANES data from 1952 to 2016. The first graph is a rather "spaghetti" kind of display of data, but I break the graph into two time periods that follow:
In the first time period, of 1952 to 1988, saw partisan loyalties more diffused by the different categories:
But after 1988, the level of loyalty by the different partisan categories becomes smoother and more consistent:
In another way of looking at the polarization of American politics, one can use the popular conception of "red" versus "blue" in terms of states, with battleground states as "purple."
Using the Cook Political Report's classification of 2016's presidential election and the "safe" versus "lean" versus "toss-up" states, a categorization of the various states can be developed into red, blue, and purple states. From this, one can use the 2016 ANES data to look at different factors, such as ideology within a state:
Ideologically, there is definite sorting by red versus blue states, while purple states tend to mirror more closely the national sample.
Another way to look at it is by partisan identification (collapsing strength into strong, not strong, and independent-leaning):
Red and blue states have majorities of their respondents to ANES in the respective party identifications, with purple states nearly evenly divided between self-identified Democrats and Republicans.
And then, by the presidential vote choice within the red, blue, and purple states using ANES responses:
One can compare this survey result by the actual vote totals by these categories of states (courtesy of David Leip's Atlas of Presidential Elections for
Again, like party identification, red and blue states are almost mirror images of each other, while purple states are evenly divided in aggregate vote totals for both Clinton and Trump.
Finally, there are two interesting questions posed on the 2016 ANES that has been asked in previous presidential years: is there anything that respondent likes about the Democratic and Republican parties?
In breaking down the responses by the party self-identification and strength, one sees how each party views the other (whether there's anything that one side likes about their party and the other side), from both the 2012 and 2016 elections:
So, 84 to 86 percent of strong partisans indicate that there is something that they like about their respective parties, but only 13 to 18 percent say there's something that they like about the opposition. And while moving towards the "middle" lessens the "like" of the home party and a slight increase in the "like" of the opposition, the pure independents really don't like either party-less than a quarter of those respondents say there's something that they like about either Democrats or Republicans.
So, I think, based on the above graphs, that Americans--both elites and (more importantly) the masses (i.e., voters)--are politically divided seems a reasonable conclusion to make and argue; but then again, it's about arguing that perhaps has made our politics so divisive.
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:
And Millennials since the beginning of 2018:
For Gen Z voters, there has been a slip down from January to March among Republican registration percentages, with increases among unaffiliated registration. Among Millennials, registered Republican percentages saw a one percentage point drop from February to March, while Democratic registration dipped one percentage point from January to February and returned up one percentage point in March.
With the news of what appears to be an energy and mobilization level among younger voters thanks to the March for Our Lives campaign, future months of voter registration data is needed to see what kind of impact this social movement may have on North Carolina's voter pool.
In a recent McClatchy
And the actual electorate (voters casting ballots) of Charlotte's 2017 general election was:
And the turnout among the generations, and their party registrations, for the City of Charlotte's general election in 2017 was:
The youngest voters--those of Generation Z and Millennials--had 8 and 9 percent registered voter turnout, while the oldest voters--Greatest/Silent--had the highest voter turnout rate at 38 percent. Overall, the city's turnout among all registered voters was 22 percent.
While NCSBE's voter age range makes a point about turnout and electorate composition, the data mixes generations within the NCSBE ranges: Generation Z with Millennials, Millennials with Gen Xers, Gen Xers with Baby Boomers, and Boomers with the Greatest/Silent generation. Having a clearer classification scheme, and using actual voter data to classify, presents a more coherent picture of the impact of different types of voters.
And, one can also make the argument that the new Millennial-dominated city council for the Queen City was voted into office, effectively, by Baby Boomer and Greatest/Silent generation voters.