Local & State
|Across all demographics, NC 2018 midterm turnout tops 2014|
|More ballots shifted power across state|
|Published Sunday, January 27, 2019 3:26 pm|
|Voter turnout in the 2018 midterm election was up across all demographic groups.|
North Carolinians were more enthusiastic to vote in the 2018 midterms than the previous off-year elections.
An analysis by the voting rights group Democracy North Carolina showed a more vigorous turnout from North Carolina voters for a midterm election cycle, especially compared to 2014, which included a high-profile U.S. Senate race. In 2018, the turnout rate, or percentage of registered voters who cast ballots, was 3.75 million (53 percent) compared to 2.94 (44 percent) in 2014. Among all 2018 votes cast, 1.92 million (51.3 percent) were via early voting compared to 1.07 million, or 36.5 percent in 2014.
Participation was up among all ethnic groups in 2018, with 753,000 black voters casting ballots, up 20 percent from 2014’s 629,000. African American turnout was 48 percent last year compared to the 2014 midterm’s 42 percent, with black women participation up to 53 percent, a 7-point improvement over the four years previous.
“Turnout was impressive in 2018, especially since it was a blue moon election year, one without a high profile race for Senate, governor, or president,” said Democracy North Carolina Research and Policy Director Isela Gutiérrez.
Mecklenburg County turnout was more robust than the 2014 off-year election with 50.9 percent of registered voters casting ballots compared to 39 percent the previous midterm. That surge led to a Democratic wave that resulted in a sweep of the board of county commissioners and left Republicans with only one lawmaker – Dan Bishop – in Mecklenburg’s legislative delegation.
The statewide jump in participation also shifted the balance of power in Raleigh, with enough Democrats winning seats in the General Assembly to break Republican supermajorities that could override vetoes issued by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. Two of six constitutional amendments were also defeated, with most of the opposition coming from urban voters. Voter ID, which was opposed by civil rights and voter advocates, including Democracy North Carolina, was approved.
“Much of the opposition to the amendments was centered in urban areas,” said Democracy North Carolina Senior Researcher Sunny Frothingham, “but all eight counties in North Carolina where the majority of registered voters are black rejected photo ID, which, when implemented in 2016, disproportionately disenfranchised black voters.”
• Registered voters 66 and older are still the most reliable, with 68 percent casting ballots compared to 63 percent in 2014, followed by 41- to 65-year-olds at who turned out at 61 percent against 52 percent four years previous;
• Younger voters had the greatest turnout rates. Among 25- to 40-year-olds, participation was 39 percent, 10 points better than 2014.
For the first time, more ballots were cast ahead of Election Day, with 51.3 of North Carolinians opting for early voting compared to 36.5 percent in 2014. Barring a successful challenge to the new voter ID law, which requires photo identification as well as elimination of the final Saturday of early voting – which is popular with African Americans – advocates fear lower turnout rates in 2020.
Turnout increased across racial and demographic groups, and in almost every county. Only three counties saw turnout rates decrease compared to 2014. Jones and Pamlico counties both required federal assistance after Hurricane Florence. The third, Halifax, had early voting sites slashed from three sites in 2016 and 2014 to one in 2018 after the General Assembly passed a bill that added requirements that made it harder for some counties to keep sites open.
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