Early voting seems to indicate that GOP claims that they’re ready for GOTV are true. While Democrats have seen a drop in the number of in-person early voters since 2012, Republicans are seeing an increase. According to Dr. Michael Bitzer, Republicans have shown up at 7% more than 2012, while Democrats are down 8%. Certainly, there’s no indication of a lack on enthusiasm among Republicans.
However, unaffiliated voters have increased their turnout by 35%. We might be able to assume that Democrats are voting for Democrats and Republicans are voting for Republicans but it’s difficult to know who those unaffiliated voters are supporting. If they are younger and more urban, they’re probably voting for Democrats. If they’re older and more rural, they’re probably more Republican.
Since 2012, Democratic registration has fallen from 43% of registered voters to 40%. Republican registration dropped about half a percent. Unaffiliated voters filled that gap. The Democratic decline is the continuation of a trend that began almost 50 years ago as the one-party South disappeared. As older Jessecrats (or Reagan Democrats) die, they’re replaced by unaffiliated voters, many of whom are actually more reliable Democratic voters than the Democrats they replaced.
Still, the numbers should give Democrats pause. African-American voters are 20% behind where they were in 2012 while white voters are 10% ahead. In North Carolina Democrats require a strong African-American vote to win in general elections.
Several factors may be at play that are reducing African-American turnout. First, early voting sites in places like Mecklenburg and Guilford County have been dramatically reduced. Mecklenburg has half the sites open that it had in 2012 and Guilford has been reduced from 16 to 1. More sites will open in the final nine days of early voting so the pattern may change. Second, many of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Matthew are home to a lot African-American voters. They’re more concerned about where they’re going to live and work than who is getting elected. We’ll see if they start voting as the areas begin their recovery.
A lot can change in the voting over the next week. Right now, though, there’s not much sign that Republicans have an enthusiasm gap despite their presidential nominee and the fallout from HB2. Democrats, on the other hand, are seeing a drop in their base voters. That will need to change if they hope to have good night on November 8.