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If you live in NC and have not voted, you can find a location where you can vote early here.

Saturday voting overview:

Saturday was a good day of early voting for President Obama. 108,172 people voted on Saturday; an estimated 57,929 of them voted for Obama, and an estimated 50,243 of them voted for Romney.

Overall, 1,475,833 people have voted in North Carolina. As more people vote, President Obama continues to build on his estimated lead, which is now up to 125,759 votes. His estimated lead at the same time in 2008 was 191,133 votes, which is smaller - but as discussed in yesterday's diary, Obama may not need as big of an early voting lead to win as he had in 2008. Republican early voting turnout is higher, but Republicans who vote early cannot also vote on election day, so Obama may fare better on election day than he did in 2008.

We should keep a sharp eye on Republican turnout next week (from Monday to Friday). In 2008, on the second week of early voting, there was a 76% increase in the number of white registered Republicans who voted early - from 206,371 in the first week to 362,365 in the second week. However, with Republicans pushing their voters to vote early to a greater extent this year, Republican turnout in the first week of early voting has been higher. If Republicans do not get as big of an increase in turnout in the second week of early voting, that could be one of the first indications that Romney has been shifting voters from election day (and indeed later in the early voting period) to the first part of the early voting period. If that turns out to be the case, that would be a sign that Romney may not perform so well on election day.

Click on the picture below for a full sized chart.

Voter Registration Changes in NC since 2008:

The net change in voter registration since election day 4 years ago in NC has been favorable for Democrats. 341,859 net registrations have been added to the voter rolls, and the new voters are all but certain to add to Obama's vote margin. First of all, let's take a broad view and look at which counties those 341,859 new registrations are coming from:

Here's an NC County map for reference.

Dark red - means the county had an outright decline in voter registration since 2008.
Light red - means the county had a small increase (less than 1000 new voters) since 2008.
Light blue - means the county had a modest increase in registration (1000 to 4000 new voters). If you add all these counties together, the increase in registration would be about on par with the increase in a single large county.
Green - means the county had a significant increase in registration. The darker the shade of green, the larger the increase.

In large parts of rural North Carolina, there has been an outright decrease or at best a small increase in voter registration. The 341,859 new voter registrations have been highly concentrated in the growing urban areas of North Carolina - especially running along Interstate 85 from Charlotte to Winston Salem and Greensboro to Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. Two counties in particular stick out:

Wake County (Raleigh) - increase of 58,670 voters - Obama won 61.8% in 2008
Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) - Increase of 45,920 voters - Obama won 56.7% in 2008

This I-85 corridor is precisely the part of North Carolina which carried Obama to victory in 2008. In general, McCain won rural areas by large margins (unless they were rural areas with large numbers of minority voters) and Obama won urban areas by large margins. There are some suburban counties that voted for McCain like Union County with notable registration gains as well. But the trouble for Romney is that the new registrants are more likely to be minority voters and Democrats than the longstanding registrants. So in general, it is good news for Obama that voter registration is disproportionately increasing along the I-85 corridor.

One other thing to pay attention to is that the increase in Guilford County (Greensboro) is fairly small - it looks like they had a fairly large purge of out of date registrations, which depresses the numbers there.

Change in Voter Registration by Party:

Now, let's look at the change in registration by party:

Party:

Democrats:  -16,986 (-5.0%)
Republicans: + 38,136 (11.2%)
Libertarians: + 15,046 (4.4%)
Unaffiliated: + 305,663 (89.4%)

At first glance, the change in party registration looks like bad news for Democrats, and hence like good news for John McCain (and Mitt Romney!). Republicans like to crow that GOP registration is on the rise, while Democratic registration is increasing, but the real story is the huge rise in the number of Unaffiliated voters. Party registration for Democrats has indeed gone down, but that is at least in part because there were and still are a lot of registered Dem Dixiecrats in North Carolina. In order to see this, we need to look on the county level, not just on the statewide level.

If our theory that the decline in Democratic party registration is attributable to Dixiecrats changing their registration to Unaffiliated or Republican, then we should expect, in general, Democratic registration to be decreasing in counties with lots of Dixiecrats. One simple way to get a rough measure on where the Dixiecrats are is to compare the percent of voters in each county who are registered Democrats with the % of voters

The following map shows the percent of 2008 early voters in each county who were registered Democrats minus Obama's vote share in 2008 early voting:

In red counties, there was a higher number of registered Democrats voting than the number of votes Obama received. These counties have particularly large numbers of Dixiecrats. In blue counties, Democratic registration lagged behind Obama's vote share. This are primarily urban counties where there are few Dixiecrats - and where Obama also did relatively well among independents, compared to the rural counties.

Mostly, rural NC is red - especially eastern NC. The I-85 corridor is blue - especially Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill. A lot of western Appalachian NC is also blue. Not coincidentally, there are very few African Americans in rural western NC, and very many African Americans in eastern rural NC. To put it bluntly, rural white registered Democrats are more likely to vote against Obama (at least in part because of race) if they live in an area with a large African American population than if they live in an area without few African Americans.

So, now let's look at the gross change in Democratic registration by county:

Let's also look at the same thing - the change in Democratic voter registration - but as a percentage change:

And suddenly it becomes very clear. Democratic registration is down all across rural North Carolina. Rural Dixiecrats - who no longer vote for National Democrats (if they ever did) - and who certainly did not vote for Barack Obama - are dying off or changing their registration to Unaffiliated or Republican.

But Democratic registration is not down in the growing urban cities of the I-85 corridor. Democratic registration is actually up in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham. It's also up in Winston-Salem, and would probably be up in Greensboro if it were not for the apparently larger than average voter file purge in Guilford County. There are also some counties in eastern NC with particularly large African American populations with small increases in Democratic registration. I would infer that what is happening in these counties are that increased Democratic registration from new African American voters is offsetting a loss in Democratic registration from White Dixiecrats.

The one place where the "rural Dixiecrats who did not support Obama in the first place are changing their registration" theory seems problematic is in rural western NC. However, if you go back and look at the first map showing the total change in registration, you can see that most of these counties either have outright declines in total registration or only very small increases in total registration. In addition, as we are about to see, Republican registration is generally down in those counties as well.

Here's the change in Republican registration by county:

Blue counties have declines in Republican registration and red counties have increases in Republican registration.

First of all, we can see that Republican registration is also declining in rural western NC, which makes the Democratic registration in those counties a bit less worrying.

Secondly, we can see that Republicans are making small registration gains (although they do add up) across rural NC, especially in places where White voters voted heavily for McCain but in which there are/were large numbers of Dixiecrats. This does not indicate that Republicans are gaining new voters, but instead that some people who have voted Republican for a long time have finally gotten around to changing their registration.

Thirdly, we can see that the GOP registration in North Carolina's largest and fastest growing urban counties - in Charlotte and in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, is decidedly unimpressive. There's an outright decline of -4,233 registered Republicans in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), outright declines of -567 in Durham and -849 in Chapel Hill. There's also an increase of only 4,742 Republicans in Wake County (Raleigh), compared to an increase of 10,001 registered Democrats in Wake County and an overall increase in registration in Wake County of 58,670 voters.

This all should pretty well dispel any notion that the small statewide GOP registration gain and Dem registration are a harbinger of future Republican gains in North Carolina.

When you look at the change in voter registration by party, it looks at first glance like a good thing for Republicans, but that idea collapses under the scrutiny of county level analysis.

Change in Voter Registration by Race:

Now let's move on from Party registration and look at the change in voter registration by race. The change in Party registration by race since 2008 is simply disastrous for the GOP - there is no possible way to spin it:

Race:

White: + 113,458 (33.2%)
Black: + 124,261 (36.3%)
American Indian: + 4,457 (1.3%)
Hispanic: + 43,700 (12.8%)
Other: + 263,139 (77.0%)

Total: + 341,859 (100.0%)The Other "77%" is not a typo. That's what the official data says, and it doesn't make much sense to me either. I can only assume that a lot of people who have registered or updated their registration since 2008 have refused to disclose their race, or have marked more than one race on their registration form - perhaps some resident North Carolinian commenters may have a better idea.

In total, the change in White + Black + American Indian + Hispanic registration only adds up to 83.6% of the total change in registration. Some of the rest. But even if we assume that everyone who did not register as either "White," "Black," "American Indian," or "Hispanic" is actually a White person who is "post-racial," the number of Black + American Indian + Hispanic registrations adds up to 50.4% of the total.

In addition, Hispanics may be being double counted as both "Hispanic" and "White," which would artificially inflate "White" registration (I'm not sure how the NC Board of Elections handles this).

The bottom line is that new registrations since 2008 are outright majority-minority, and there is no possible way that can not help Barack Obama - it's not even necessary to look at on the county level.

And in any case, I had better go ahead and post this diary rather than have readers wonder if I will miss another day's update again. ;)

Early Voting Graphs:

White GOP Turnout is up since 2008:


Minority and White Dem Turnout is up since 2008:


Obama's margin continues to go up, though not as fast as in 2008:


You can see clearly that from Monday to Friday, although Obama was still adding to his estimated vote margin, Romney managed to cut substantially into the amount by which Obama's estimated vote margin increased. On Saturday, Obama bounced back up again closer to 2008 - a sign that weekend voting is more favorable for Obama than weekday voting:


Obama's estimated vote percent is lower than in 2008 because of higher turnout:


It's remarkable how closely the pattern of change in Obama's daily vote percentages track 2008, though they are just a bit under (again, due to higher GOP turnout):


Previous NC Early Voting Diaries:

Day 1 & Methodology
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 9

1:37 PM PT: On the issue of "Other" race voters, Chachy has some good info in comments:

That category was around 100,000 on election day 2008, and stayed there till early 2012. It was 113,000 on Jan 7 2012, but then it jumped to 292,00 a week later. That's pretty much the whole change right there.

For the same week, white voters were +2,000, black voters were +1,000, Hispanics were +200, and American Indians were basically unchanged.

But total W + B + AI + H for Jan. 7 = 6.119 million, which is about 90,000 less than the total number of 6.209 million.

For Jan. 14, W + B + AI + H = 6.299 million, which is about 87000 more than the total number of 6.212 million.

So obviously there was some sort of methodological change that occurred that week. My guess is that the undercount by race on Jan. 7 is because some voters didn't check any of the boxes on the form? And then the next week they decided to double-count abount 180,000 W/B/AI/H voters as others (maybe because they checked two boxes or something)? I don't know. At any rate, I would think that about 100,000 of the "others" are hispanic or Asian voters, and the rest are overcounts.

Originally posted to MattTX on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 11:52 AM PDT.

Also republished by North Carolina BLUE.

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