There’s been some talk in mainstream media the last week or so about the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which left protections for abortions to the states and set back birthing rights about half a century.
Pundits are citing an uptick in voter registrations, noting that many of them come from women, as evidence of a groundswell of activity from the left centered around abortion protections.
The numbers in North Carolina don’t quite support this thesis, though they tell a tale of their own.
Since June 18, the last NC voter database snapshot since the Dobbs decision came down on June 24, registered voters have increased by almost 33,000 — that’s just 0.4 percent of the NC electorate of 7.35 million, not really enough to swing an election even in our state, where the margins can be quite close.
Breaking down that 33K by gender is… dissatisfying. The NC voter registration form has a section where the applicant can choose from two boxes, “Male” and “Female,” but the section is not required, like date of birth and address. So almost 10,000 of these new voters cannot be identified by gender, as none is indicated. Of the remainder — 22,989 — most of them are indeed women: 12,024 of them, against almost 11,000 men. But women voters outnumber men overall in the state by more than half a million, so the difference is negligible.
Gender issues aside, the numbers have a different tale to tell.
In March 2022, NC passed a unique milestone: Unaffiliated voters became the largest political group in the state. As of Aug. 20, UNA voters total 2.6 million, a full 35 percent of the electorate, which is plenty large enough to swing an election, except the independents are not all on the same team. Everyone has their theories as to who they are, but we estimate that perhaps half of them are political moderates who don’t identify with either party; the rest are largely extremists who don’t think their political parties go far enough.
Between the Dobbs decision and Aug. 20, the number of unaffiliated voters climbed by 33,551, which is more than the overall total of new registered voters. A lot of them came from the Democrat side, which lost more than 3,000 voters while the Republicans gained more than 2,600. But the Republicans still have the smallest political cohort besides the Libertarians, almost 50,000 of which make up 0.6 percent of the electorate, and the Green Party, which as of Aug. 20 had 13 people, which is not bad considering they just got reinstated.
And so the numbers indicate political unrest — which anyone who looks around once in a while already knows — with enough tidbits for both the Ds and Rs to claim an edge.
But they more or less cancel each other out, giving Democrats a slight edge of 3.8 percentage points. The rest is up to the unaffiliated, and nobody really knows who they are.
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