By VICTOR SKINNER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — North Carolina’s latest voter registration data shows most of the 8,937 new registrations last week were unaffiliated, while Republicans picked up hundreds and Democrats lost voters.
Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at The John Locke Foundation, highlighted the latest numbers in a tweet Monday.
“The post-municipal election #ncpol registration dump has come. Contrary to expectations, it did not help Democrats,” Mr. Jackson posted, along with a breakdown of the numbers. “Unaffiliated gains were unusually large this week.”
The data shows out of 8,937 voter registration changes between Aug. 6 and Aug. 13, 8,530 were unaffiliated, 405 were for Republicans, six were for the Green Party, and two went to Libertarians. Democrats, meanwhile, lost six registrations.
The biggest changes came from the state’s most populous counties — Wake and Mecklenburg.
In Wake County, 3,022 voters registered as unaffiliated, while the Green Party picked up five registrations. Republicans there lost 466 voters, Democrats lost 251 and Libertarians lost 85 over the last week.
Registrations in Mecklenburg County totaled 1,513 unaffiliated, 680 Democrats, 219 Republicans and 29 Libertarians.
The numbers come just weeks after about 56,000 North Carolina felons regained the right to vote through a recent appeals court ruling and efforts to encourage them to register.
Voting rights advocates held an event in downtown Raleigh on July 27 to help felons on probation or parole to register to vote, emboldened by a North Carolina Court of Appeals decision that lifted a restriction following the July 26 municipal elections.
Registration data shows that since July 23 there have been 16,357 registration changes, with 15,424 registered as unaffiliated, 1,291 registered as Republicans, 89 Libertarian registrations and six signing up for the Green Party. A total of 453 Democrats left the party over the same time frame.
J. Michael Bitzer, politics professor at Catawba College, told The Center Square it’s difficult to predict how felons enfranchised by the appeals court ruling will ultimately impact the election, or which party they would be more likely to vote for.
“I think the big question is if they’re put onto the roll, … will they be more likely to show up to cast a ballot?” Dr. Bitzer said.
“With North Carolina being as competitive as elections go … tens of thousands of voters (siding) with one party over the other could make a difference,” he said. “If I had to guess, they would register unaffiliated … That’s the fastest growing group.”
Dr. Bitzer noted that unaffiliated voters also have the lowest turnout.
The recent trends in voter registrations seem to follow a pattern that dates back at least four years, with Democrats losing ground as numbers increased for Republicans and unaffiliated voters.
In July of 2018, registered Democrats in North Carolina numbered 2,659,396, a figure that has steadily fallen, to 2,535,222 in July 2020, then to 2,491,507 in July 2022. Republican registrations, meanwhile, went from 2,086,204 in July 2018 to 2,104,343 in July 2020, then to 2,209,952 in July 2022.
Unaffiliated voters numbered 2,186,397 in July 2018, a figure that increased to 2,343,507 in July 2020, then to 2,574,093 in July 2022.
The total number of voters grew from nearly 7 million in 2018 to more than 7.3 million this year.