North Carolina voter turnout in 2022 was lower than 2018, although many have predicted the opposite

This story was originally published online at Carolina Public Press.

Despite expert predictions that voters would break turnout records In the 2022 general election, North Carolina residents cast fewer ballots on November 8 than in 2018.

According to the NC State Board of Elections, about 53 percent — 3,755,778 — of eligible voters turned out in the 2018 general election. That year, that percentage was about 51 percent, or 3,745,547 voters in North Carolina.

The drop in turnout for the 2022 general election comes two years after the election in which North Carolinians have cast the most ballots since at least 1972.

Around 75 percent of those eligible to vote – more than 5.5 million – cast their ballots in the 2020 general election. That’s a larger percentage than in general elections from 1972 to 2016, when turnout ranged from 58 to 68 percent.

Why the decrease?

In an article published Oct. 22, political scientist Nathan Gonzales described former President Donald J. Trump as a “turnout engine” for the 2018 and 2020 elections – meaning Trump inspired masses of voters to vote for or against him.

“Republicans wanted to support and defend Trump, while Democrats vehemently opposed him. …Two enthusiastic parties are a key ingredient to a record-breaking turnout, and that’s likely to happen again this November,” Gonzales wrote in October.

Gonzales and other policy researchers predicted that overturning the Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court, a ruling giving states the power to restrict access to abortion would inspire large numbers of voters.

While voters in many states voted for abortion rights—in most cases—Roe v. Wade didn’t get the predicted turnout result.

Only 10 states saw higher voter turnout in 2022 compared to 2018, Washington Post analysis shows. The remaining states, including North Carolina, did not sustain the voting dynamics the researchers predicted.

The low turnout hasn’t stopped North Carolina from sticking to its Republican paradigm and electing Republican Ted Budd to the US Senate.

The reason for Tar Heel state’s decline in voter turnout will be difficult to determine until the state releases voter demographics, which the state said will be released within weeks. which will reveal trends in voter age, race, ethnicity and affiliation.

A likely cause of the decline could be voter apathy or a lack of trust in the government and its processes, NPR found shortly after the 2018 election.

North Carolina voters expressed similar sentiments in a Carolina Public Press Poll asking non-party voters to state their reasons for registering as such.

Voter turnout forecasts

But some groups of voters, such as those aged 18 to 29, who are typically considered politically apathetic or unengaged or interested in government, are unlikely to have voted on November 8.

A Tufts University study predicts that 27 percent of Americans in this age group voted on Tuesday. That’s the second-highest proportion of young voters since 1994 – just below a record 31 percent in 2018.

In the 2020 election, 60 percent of registered voters aged 18 to 25 and 65 percent aged 26 to 40 voted, according to the NC State Board of Elections. The groups accounted for about 11 percent of total North Carolina voters that year.

Another constituency that is expected to vote in large numbers is North Carolina’s Latino population. In April, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials predicted that Latino and Hispanic turnout in 2022 would be 94 percent higher than in 2014.

Analysts attribute the surge in registration among Latino voters, who typically vote for Democrats, to Trump’s election.

“The actual Latino vote could far exceed this forecast if candidates and parties invest in meaningful public relations to engage the community from the start,” NALEO CEO Arturo Vargas wrote in April.

State Board of Elections election data from the 2020 election showed that 59 percent of registered Latino and Hispanic voters cast their ballots. Collectively, Hispanic and Latino voters accounted for about 2 percent of all voters in 2020.

More trends by demographics will be available in the next few months or so, said state board of elections spokesman Patrick Gannon.

“We will not be able to generate this chart until all 100 counties have completed their voter histories, which typically takes several weeks after the election,” Gannon wrote Nov. 10 to the Carolina Public Press.

Until then, it’s difficult to draw any conclusions about which constituency led North Carolina into its new Republican governance.


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