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Hullabaloo


Sunday, November 02, 2014

 

Election Day wild cards

by Tom Sullivan

Spent some quality time yesterday in the wind and snow and cold electioneering outside a couple of North Carolina early voting locations. It was the last day of early voting and it snowed all day. My wife got a push-poll on Friday knocking Barack Obama and asking if the info would make her more or less likely to vote this year, etc. Republicans here are still running against Obama.

Turnout in North Carolina is way up over 2010. In a blog post considering the impact of the Moral Monday Movement, FishOutofWater writes, "Democratic votes are crushing Republican votes 48.5% to 31.2% with over one million votes accepted." That's statewide. Where I live, Democrats are outperforming the GOP and independents in early voting in our county by about 2:1. It's 49-25-26.

Here's the catch, according to Michael Bitzer, from the political science department at Catawba College:

One of the key things to consider is the division between urban and rural Democrats: urban Democrats tend to be more liberal than their rural counterparts (in fact, there is still the generation of rural North Carolina Democrats who are generally more conservative and, in all actuality, vote Republican in the voting booth).

Politicos around here know not to trust that all registered Democrats vote for Democrats. Nobody seems to have a good handle on how the independents will break. Still:

Democratic turnout, measured against the same day in 2010, is 24 percent higher, while Republicans have voted slightly above the same level. Of those who have voted early, 49 percent were registered Democrats and 31 percent Republicans.

There has been a stronger showing of African-American voters, 25 percent of the early voting, compared to 20 percent in 2010, which is expected to benefit Hagan.

Unaffiliated and Libertarian voters appear motivated this year. They have cast 1 in 5 of the early ballots, 42 percent more than they did over the same period in 2010. Thirty-two percent of these voters didn’t participate in the 2010 election in the state, Bitzer’s analysis shows.

Another wild card for North Carolina: the GOP eliminated straight-ticket voting this year for the first time since 1925. This will, no doubt, add to lines at the polls:

Black and Democratic voters have long cast more straight-ticket ballots than white and Republicans have. In 2008, Democrats racked up a 401,000-vote cushion among the 2.2 million voters who voted a straight ticket. Elizabeth Dole beat Kay Hagan among those voters who didn’t pull the straight-ticket lever, but that wasn’t enough to dig out of the hole.

In 2012, straight-ticket voters gave Democrats a 308,000-vote lead, including a 78,000-vote edge in Mecklenburg County. Trevor Fuller, now the chairman of the county board of commissioners, actually lost to Michael Hobbs (who?) among voters who assessed each race individually.

Those kinds of numbers surely prompted Republicans to kill the practice, and it seems likely to help the GOP. In Mecklenburg, Democrats in down-ballot races like clerk of court appear to have the most at risk. That will hinge, though, on whether past straight-ticket voters walk out or brave the rest of the ballot.

But another catch. A friend reported that a Republican woman this week sniffed, "I only vote on Election Day." My friend concluded why: Her voting early would only prove early voting is useful.

The first day of early voting here in North Carolina there were lines at the polls, as there were yesterday. Without straight-ticket voting, people were taking longer in the booths. But with the Democrats' nominal lead in early turnout numbers, Republicans have to make up a significant difference on Election Day to win. And their older, whiter voters will have to stand in the same lines their party created to do it.

Should the NCGOP lose seats in the legislature on Tuesday and should Kay Hagan keep her seat in the U.S. Senate, count on the NCGOP to attempt to eliminate early voting altogether.