By Brent Laurenz | The Voter Update
Despite the historic Republican victories in the 2010 elections, voter registration numbers in North Carolina have remained pretty consistent since May of last year.
As of May 12, there are 6,095,822 registered voters in the state, according to data from the State Board of Elections. Given that the 2010 census put the state’s population at 9.5 million, 64 percent of North Carolinians are registered to vote.
The overall number of registered voters in the state decreased by 9,865 over the past year, with both Democrats and Republicans seeing a downturn. Democratic voter rolls lost 49,428 people while the Republicans shed only 8,817 voters since May 2010. There was little change in each party’s overall percentage of registered voters, and the current numbers have Democrats as 44.38 percent of registered voters and Republicans as 31.56 percent of registered voters. Unaffiliated voters currently make up 23.89 percent of voters (Libertarians comprise only 0.18 percent).
While both major parties saw losses in registered voters over the past year, unaffiliated voters increased by 44,991. This seems to be a national trend as more voters continue to disassociate themselves with the two major political parties and label themselves as “independent.” Moving forward, this rise in unaffiliated voters could have big electoral consequences as we transition from a one-party state dominated by Democrats to a two-party, competitive swing state.
As it looks likely that North Carolina will be a presidential battleground state again in 2012 it will be interesting to see what these numbers look like a year from now and after the November 2012 election. With President Barack Obama holding the Democratic nominating convention in Charlotte, we can assume there will be a big push to register new voters in the state as Obama tries to repeat his 2008 victory in North Carolina. It’s also a pretty safe bet that Republicans, and whomever they nominate next year, will not be caught unprepared when it comes to competing for North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes.
However, bills have been introduced by the new Republican legislative majority this session that would shorten voters’ access to same-day registration during the early voting period and eliminate youth pre-registration. (An analysis of data earlier this year found pre-registration has actually favored Republicans slightly over Democrats.) If these measures were to pass into law they have the potential to negatively impact voter registration here in North Carolina, which is something both Republicans and Democrats should be worried about.