In a finding that contradicts conventional wisdom, Donald Trump and other North Carolina Republican candidates benefited from a surge of voters who used same-day registration during early voting at a higher rate than Democrats. The Republicans were 30% of registered voters in October 2016, but 34% of the first-time voters who used same day registration to cast a ballot.
Non-whites also disproportionately used same-day registration, but in smaller numbers than the new Republicans according to Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina.
New data from the State Board of Elections show that 69% of North Carolina’s 6.9 million registered voters cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, just 1 percent behind the modern turnout record set in 2008. But an analysis by the voting rights group Democracy North Carolina reveals wide variations in who showed up and who didn’t among 47 subgroups of voters.
At the top of the list: Three out of four Republican women (76%) participated in the election, a record for that group. Republican men also had a strong showing, with a turnout rate of 75%, followed by Democratic women, particularly African-American Democratic women (72%).
By contrast, Democratic men lagged 10 points behind Republican men, and more than one third of the voters who are not affiliated with any party didn’t bother to cast a ballot. In fact, the number of registered unaffiliated voters who didn’t vote (763,000) exceeded the number of
Republican men who did (756,000).
Nearly half the registered voters in the 18-25 age group also did not vote. Their 53% turnout rate fell below the 60% achieved in 2008 and 55% level in 2012. On the other hand, a record 78% of registered voters over age 65 showed up; as a group, they cast over 1 million ballots for the first
time, thanks to aging Baby Boomers.
African-American women continued to participate at the highest rates of all non-white voters, and their overall 70% turnout rate nearly matched the 72% rate for registered white women. Overall, women outperformed men in every party and race subgroups; in fact, 515,000 more women voted in 2016 than men. That’s not too surprising since women are 54% of the registered voters in the state.
The statewide turnout of 68.9% is slightly above the rate in 2012 (68.3%) and slightly below the modern record of 69.6% set in 2008, when Barack Obama carried the state.
Nationally, North Carolina had the 11th highest turnout rate for eligible citizens, the same rank it held among the 50 states in 2012. That’s a big jump from ranking 37th in 2000 and 38th in 2004.
“The share of Tar Heel citizens who vote has risen dramatically in recent presidential elections, largely because of galvanizing personalities at the top of the ticket and new policies that have made voting easier,” said Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina.
“North Carolina ranked among the 15 worst states for voter turnout throughout the entire twentieth century,” Hall noted. “It only began gaining ground with the expansion of early voting and policies like same-day registration that help infrequent voters and people who get engaged late in the election cycle.”
The number of self-identified Hispanic/Latino registered voters has steadily climbed in North Carolina, from 68,000 in 2008 to 167,000 in 2016, but their turnout rate of 58% continues to lag behind. That’s partly because they are younger voters, said Hall. “About 30% of registered Latino voters are in the 18-to-25 age group, compared to 10% of white voters,” he pointed out.
The Democracy NC analysis shows a turnout gap between white and black registered voters of 7 percentage points (71% for whites versus 64% for blacks), which is the same gap that existed in 2004 (66% vs. 59%).
In the 2008 and 2012 elections when Barack Obama was on the ballot, turnout of African-American voters exceeded the rate of white voters and hit a modern record of 72% in 2008. (Turnout reached higher levels in the 1880s and 1890s in North Carolina before Jim Crow laws
and extra-legal disenfranchisement took effect.)
“Not surprisingly, turnout among black voters in 2016 fell below the high levels of the Obama elections,” said Hall. “The good news is that it rose above the persistent low levels in the state before Obama, which were often below 60% in presidential years. Hopefully, we’ve reached a new plateau and will grow from there – unless new barriers to the ballot are put in place.”
The analysis also includes three relatively small groups of voters with participation rates below the state average: Libertarians, Native Americans and Asians.
The number of Libertarian Party members has jumped from under 4,000 in 2008 to over 32,400 in 2016, but only 57% of them bothered to vote this year, despite having Libertarian candidates on the ballot for president, US senator, and governor.
The number of registered Native Americans in North Carolina increased more slowly to 56,700 but only 51% of them voted in 2016, the lowest participation rate of any racial or ethnic classification on the registration rolls.
Finally, the number of Asian voters has climbed quickly to 81,200. Their 63% turnout rate is “fairly good considering the fact that 51% of Asian voters are age 40 or younger,” Hall said.