Tonight, North Carolina has two special elections. In NC-03, former Greenville mayor and Democrat Allen Thomas faces off against Republican state Representative Greg Murphy. In NC-09, Democrat Dan McCready and Republican state Senator Dan Bishop are engaged in a do-over election as a result of massive voter fraud in 2018. The 9th District race is one of the closest watched elections in the country and has seen massive spending. The 3rd District race has been overshadowed and caught very little attention outside of eastern North Carolina.
Turnout in both races will be extremely low. In NC-03, only 35,550 early votes have been cast. That means less than 100,000 will likely participate in the special election. Of those who have voted, Democrats and Republicans are evenly split with just over 12,700 votes each. Just under 9,600 unaffiliated voters have cast ballots.
In eastern North Carolina, I suspect that the vast majority of Republicans have voted for Murphy but that only 85% or so of Democrats have supported Thomas. I also think that the unaffiliated voters will break solidly Republican. In other words, it’s hard for Thomas to win tonight, but not impossible. Thomas has broad appeal in that part of the world, but I think the low turnout plays against him.
In NC-09, 83,122 people have cast ballots. The total vote will likely be between 150,000 and 175,000, better than NC-03 but still low. Of those who’ve voted, 32,592 are Democrats, 27,322 are Republicans and 23,025 are unaffiliated. Also, 183 people have voted who are registered with a third party.
A recent poll showed that in the district, 88% of Democrats support McCready and 92% of Republicans support Bishop. If we look at registration alone, admittedly a very dubious proposition, McCready can count on 28,680 of the Dems who have voted and Bishop can count on 25,136 of the Republicans.
If we assume (remember the old saying from high school, “Assume makes an ass out u and me.”) the 12% (3,911) of Democrats who don’t support McCready are independents and 8% (2,186) of Republicans who don’t support Bishop are, too, then 6,097 of the registered partisans are independents. Added to the 23,025 registered unaffiliated voters, we have 29,122 independents who have voted so far.
The poll says that McCready leads among independents 46% to 30%. So if we give McCready 46% (13,996) of the 29,122 independents, he can count on 42,076 voter. If Bishop gets 30% (8,737) of those independents, he can count on 33,873 votes. If the remaining 24% of the independents break 50-50 between the candidates, McCready will lead Bishop in the early vote 45,571 to 37,368 (55-45), if all 183 third party registrants vote for the third party.
As I said, this is a dubious calculation, but it gives a bit of an idea of what Bishop needs to win. Historically in North Carolina in close elections, Democrats win the early vote and Republicans win the election day vote. In this scenario, Bishop needs to make up a 10 point deficit today and win by more than 8,203 votes.
For reference, in 2018, McCready won the early vote by about 4%, and Harris won election day by 8%. That said, almost twice as many people voted early in 2018 than have voted so far. Also, more than 60% of the voters voted early in 2018 and only 38% voted on election day. The turnout today will make the difference. Bishop needs to hope that far more turn out today than have voted so far. Expect a nail-biter tonight.
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 >