Democrats, black women dominate R-C area voting

Published 10:47 am Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A detailed analysis of the 4.5 million North Carolina voters participating in last year’s election shows that Republicans turned out their members at a higher rate than Democrats in 65 of the 100 counties.

On the other hand, the percent of black voters who cast a ballot exceeded the turnout rate for registered whites in 64 counties – and 85 percent of African-American voters are registered as Democrats.

The voter participation analysis by the nonpartisan election reform group Democracy North Carolina is based on data provided by the counties to the State Board of Elections. (Some figures are adjusted to account for differences in time delays in data collection and posting on the Board’s website.)

The statewide gap in participation rates for the major parties was three percentage points – 73% of registered Republicans voted, compared to 70% of Democrats. But in 21 counties (mostly west of I-85), Republicans outperformed Democrats by more than seven points; and in 13 counties (mostly in the east), Democrats outdid Republicans by more than five percentage points.

More women voted than men in every single county, and seniors over age 65 outnumbered young voters ages 18 to 25 in all but four counties with major universities – Orange, Watauga, Pitt and Durham. Young voters had the lowest participation rate of any age group, except in college counties like Jackson, Pasquotank, Scotland and Guilford and in several eastern counties where African Americans are the majority of voters, including Hertford, Northampton, Bertie and Edgecombe.

In the Roanoke-Chowan area, the analysis revealed the following data:

In Bertie County, 10,193 ballots were cast. In the racial breakdown, 6,022 voters were black; 3,812 were white; and 15 were Hispanic. By political party, Democrats (8,010) far outdistanced Unaffiliated (1,238), Republicans (938) and Libertarian (7). Following the state trend, women voters (5,764) outnumbered men (4,182) in Bertie, with black females leading that subgroup with 3,608 going to the polls. The 41-65 age group (5,098) was the largest among those casting ballots.

Gates County saw 5,482 ballots cast, the majority (3,247) by white voters. The county leaned heavily Democratic with 3,501 voters registered to that party while 999 are Republican, 975 Unaffiliated and seven Libertarians. Women (2,894) outnumbered men (2,390) at the county’s polling places, with white women (1,679) leading the way. In age, those 41-65 accounted for the majority (2,907) of Gates County voters.

With the Roanoke-Chowan area’s largest population, Hertford County saw 11,023 of its registered voters taking part in the November General Election. Black voters (7,008) had the highest turnout in race as there were 3,717 whites casting ballots and 27 Hispanics. Democrats (8,874) seized the majority of political preference in the county, beating out Unaffiliated voters (1,187), Republicans (956) and Libertarians (6) by a wide margin. Nearly 2,000 more women voted than men in Hertford County (6,464-to-4,510) with black women (4,300) dominating that subgroup analysis. In age, the 41-65 group turned out the most voters (5,279).

Northampton County had the second highest number of votes cast (10,857) in the local area. Blacks (6,457) outnumbered whites (4,203) and Hispanics (15) in the balloting process. By political affiliation, Democrats led the way with 8,716 visiting the polling places compared to 1,208 Unaffiliated voters, 925 Republicans and eight Libertarians. There were more women voters (6,037) than men (4,620), led by black women (3,801). Nearly one-half (5,372) of those casting ballots in Northampton County were between the ages of 41-65.

Statewide, 68 percent of the state’s 6.6 million registered voters cast ballots in 2012, but there’s a wide gap in the turnout rate between the best and worst performing counties. Chatham County, where 76 percent of registered voters cast ballots, ranked first in turnout – as it did in 2008 – while the military-dependent Onslow County ranked last, with a 53 percent turnout rate.

“It’s fascinating to see all the variations in performance among age, gender, race and party groups in the counties,” said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina. “Our state has a long history of low participation, going back to the days of the literacy tests and poll tax. Studying high and low performing groups in counties can help communities improve participation and civic life.”

The two groups with the most enthusiasm to vote in 2012 were African-American women and white Republicans; they each posted a 74 percent turnout rate, well ahead of the 68 percent statewide rate.

“The presidential election was a polarizing, emotional experience for core supporters of both major candidates,” said Hall. “Candidates, parties and interest groups invested in mobilizing voters and helped them understand that their vote was important for themselves and for society.”

Hall said the split results in the 10 counties with the highest turnout reflects North Carolina’s swing state status: Five went for Republican Mitt Romney (Davie, Person, Moore, Greene and Beaufort) and five went for Democrat Barack Obama (Chatham, Warren, Wake, Granville and Hertford).

Although voters unaffiliated with a political party now outnumber registered Democrats or Republicans in 42 counties, they are less engaged and voted at a lower level than members of the major parties in 97 of the 100 counties (the exceptions are Avery, Bertie and Mitchell). Statewide, 60 percent of unaffiliated voters cast ballots compared to 70 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans.

The impact of the criminal justice system on the African-American community also shows up in the voting data, Hall said. Women cast 54 percent of the white votes in 2012, but a remarkable 61 percent of the black votes, largely because so many black men have been convicted of a felony. North Carolina temporarily suspends a person’s right to vote while the person serves a felony sentence, but Hall said many people believe the suspension is permanent.

“This is one more area where education is critical and where barriers have a real impact on participation,” he said.