This year in North Carolina, it’s all about the unaffiliated voters. They’re voting as a larger proportion of the electorate than they have in past midterms and how they break will likely determine the outcome of the election. If they break for Republicans, they could spoil Democrats’ attempt to end the veto proof majorities in the legislature and provide a firewall for GOP Congressional candidates. If they break for Democrats, they could turn one or more of the GOP-held Congressional districts blue and put Democrats in a much stronger position when the legislature reconvenes in January.
Turnout so far has outpaced the 2014 cycle but is shy of the 2016 presidential year. According to Dr. Bitzer, the electorate overall looks more like 2016 than 2014. Democrats in 2016 made up 42% of the early vote while this year they are at 43% so far. Republicans were at 32% in 2016 but are only at 30% this year. Unaffiliated voters are tracking about where they were in 2016, making up 26% both then and now.
Democrats should be cautiously optimistic at this point. They make up 38% of the overall registration in the state and are making up 43% of the ballots returned so far. Republican make up 30% of the registered voters and comprise 30% of the votes cast. Unaffiliated voters are making up 4% below their registration but are above where they’ve been in previous midterms.
I suspect the higher unaffiliated vote is good for Democrats. Surge voters usually come out to vote against something and this year that something is the President. If Democrats can maintain their advantage in the overall electorate and the unaffiliated voters break for them, November 6 will be a good night for Democrats.
The big unknown is how many people will vote on Election Day. In the past two midterms, a majority of voters have voted on Election Day while in the past three presidential years, a majority has voted early. In 2014, 58% of voters voted on E-Day and in 2010, 63% voted then. In 2016, only 34% voted on election day in both 2008 and 2012, 38% did. If half the overall electorate votes on Election Day, we’ll have about 4 million voters and a midterm turnout like we haven’t seen in decades. I believe that higher turnout is better for Democrats.
In the past, Republicans have performed better on Election Day than they did in early voting, erasing any Democratic advantage. The same thing could happen this year, but Democrats seem more motivated to vote than they have since 2008. If they hold their own on election day, they’ll have good year.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >