Halifax County is located in northeastern North Carolina. The county seat is Halifax, but the largest city is Roanoke Rapids. The county had a 2010 population of 54,691, a decent size given its location in the sparsely populated northeastern part of the state.
The county is majority black and its registered voter population is as well. This demographic makeup makes Halifax one of the strongest Democratic counties in the state. Halifax is unique because most of its white population is concentrated in the city of Roanoke Rapids, making it one of the few counties in the state where the city is more Republican than its rural areas.
In 2012, Obama carried the county with 66% of the vote, besting his 2008 performance. Romney carried over 3/4ths of the white vote and won many precincts in the Roanoke Rapids area but was slaughtered in the majority black rural areas of the state.
Halifax County residents continue to back Democrats overwhelmingly, from the federal and the state down to the local level.
1988: D+15 (Solid Democratic)
1992: D+18 (Solid Democratic)
1996: D+16 (Solid Democratic)
2000: D+21 (Solid Democratic)
2004: D+21 (Solid Democratic)
2008: D+21 (Solid Democratic)
2012: D+28 (Solid Democratic)
Forecast: Halifax used to be much whiter than it is today. Accordingly, Halifax voters went for George Wallace in 1968, Richard Nixon in 1972, and Jesse Helms for Senate in 1972 and 1978. Black voters had poor turnout rates, but as time went on began to reclaim the franchise in larger numbers. At the same time, many whites left the county – an outmigration that continues to the present. Democrats have a solid hold on Halifax County and this is unlikely to be relinquished any time soon.
Halifax is the slowest-growing county in the state, if such a term applies, because it isn’t growing at all. The collapse of North Carolina’s textile and tobacco industries has harmed Halifax County, which experienced a -4.67% drop in its population over the 2000s decade, larger than any other county in North Carolina during that period. Both blacks and whites are leaving Halifax County for greener pastures, but whites are relocating at a much higher rate. Population estimates show that Halifax continues to experience population decline. This ensures that the county will become smaller and at the same time more Democratic.
Recent efforts to revitalize Halifax’s poor economy have ended in failure and sometimes scandal. There is growing disparity in the economic fortunes of North Carolina’s urban centers and more rural counties like Halifax; state leaders should make renewing counties like Halifax and others in this area a top priority.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.