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Unaffiliated registration grows in NC

Posted October 20, 2014 3:56 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2014 6:32 p.m. EDT

'I voted' sticker

— More than three-quarters of the growth in voter registrations in North Carolina this year was among unaffiliated rather than signing up as a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian. 

This isn't a new trend. Between voters fed up with either party and unsure of which camp they belong in, the ranks of unaffiliated voters have been growing steadily over the past decade.

As this blog, and others, have pointed out before, just because someone chooses not to registered with one party or another, that doesn't mean they don't have strong ideological views or tend to favor candidates of one party or another.

Still, it's worth noting that there are four counties – Currituck, Dare, Transylvania and Washington – where unaffiliated voters are the plurality, outnumbering both Republicans and Democrats. In several other counties, including Wake County, there are more unaffiliated voters than one of the major parties. 

Voter registration totals

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Source: N.C. Board of Elections

Political pundits are quick to point out that unaffiliated voters aren't always the most reliable over voters. Typically, those who have registered with a partisan affiliation are more reliable on Election Day.

While early in-person voting doesn't begin until Thursday, North Carolina voters have already begun to cast ballots by mail. While unaffiliated voters aren't quite keeping pace with their partisan counterparts, they aren't far off. 

Unaffiliated voters, who make up a little more than a quarter of the electorate, have requested and returned a little less than a quarter of all absentee ballots as of the morning of Oct. 10. Of course, the data can't tell us who those voters are backing or what has motivated them to vote. Still, it's some indication that unaffiliated voters aren't quite as tuned out this year as the conventional wisdom might suggest. 

Also of note: Republicans make up 30 percent of all registered voters but are more than 38 percent of those who have returned mail-in ballots so far. 

Ballots requested and returned mail-in ballots

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This table shows the number of ballots requested and returned by voters of each political affiliation. The percentage is the share of the early ballot requests and returns from each category of voter. 

Source: N.C. Board of Elections, Oct. 10 2014.