More than 40,000 N.C. voters have changed their political party this year
By Donna King
Data from the N.C. State Board of Elections show that 41,795 N.C. voters have changed their party affiliation since the beginning of 2022. More than half of those, 23,374, are now unaffiliated voters, instead of a Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian.
Republicans are the only N.C. party to gain more voters than they’ve lost so far this year, with nearly 5,000 Democrats becoming Republicans.
Of political parties, Democrats have lost the most voters since January 2022 with nearly 20,000 registered Democrats leaving the party and only 6,253 joining. The data show that of those who left, one quarter (4,999) became Republicans, 14,447 became unaffiliated, and 207 switched to the Libertarian Party.
About 9,830 voters have left Republican affiliation, and 11,341 switched to it. Of the Republican voters who changed their affiliation, most (8,348) became unaffiliated, 1,211 became Democrats, and 271 switched to Libertarian.
Libertarians lost 936 affiliated voters. Of those, 579 became unaffiliated, 220 became Republicans, and 137 became Democrats.
“This year seems to have a slight uptick in registration changes when comparing it to the election years of the last decade,” said Jim Stirling, research fellow at the John Locke Foundation’s Civitas Center for Public Integrity. “2020 had a massive number of registration changes, totaling 237,611 changes. This includes the now removed Green and Constitutional parties only having received 2,477 registrant changes. While we may not reach 2020 registration changes, we will likely see a large uptick in registrations as we get closer to November.”
There has been speculation that voters are switching parties to manipulate another group’s primary race and might switch back in time for the general election.
“Short-term party switching is often talked about but is pretty rare in practice,” said Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity. “It was popularized by Rush Limbaugh’s ‘Operation Chaos’ in 2008, when he encouraged Republicans to change registration to vote in Democratic presidential primaries. More recently, there was an effort by progressives to change party registration to vote in the Republican 11th Congregssional District primary against Madison Cawthorn.”
Only an estimated 2,000 Democrats made the switch in that race, not enough to have swayed the outcome.
North Carolina has more than 7 million registered voters, with about 2.5 million Democrats, 2.2 million Republicans, and 50,000 Libertarians. There is a meeting at the State Board of Elections scheduled for Thursday June 28, that would consider adding the Green Party to N.C. ballots. Controversy has erupted lately, though, that citizens who’ve signed the Greens’ petition are being contacted by a group associated with national Democrat operative Marc Elias. The group is encouraging them to remove their names from the petition. If the Green Party is allowed on N.C. ballots for November, it could erode Democrat affiliations even further.
The data illustrate a national trend with more voters switching to the Republican Party ahead of 2022 general elections. Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that 1 million voters in 43 states have switched to Republican affiliation this year, while only 63,000 switched to become Democrats. AP cited Raleigh as one of the key cities in the study where Republicans are gaining ground.
Democrats are hoping that last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade’s constitutional right to an abortion will change the voter exodus from their party and force Democrats’ focus onto the state legislative races, where abortion law would now be set.
“I think this is an earthquake in the midterms,” said N.C. Democrat political strategist Morgan Jackson on “Front Row with Marc Rotterman” over the weekend, calling it a “base motivator.”
Both sides of the aisle think the Roe decision from the U.S. Supreme Court could benefit Democrats, with a recent Civitas Poll of likely N.C. voters finding that 40% of respondents identified as pro-life, while 43% of respondents said they are pro-choice. Among women 18-34 years old, 22% say they are pro-life, while 63% say they are pro-choice.
“One of the reasons Democrats are having trouble in polls right now is because Democrats are not motivated,” Jackson said. “This changes all of that.”
Republicans are working to wrest control of Congress from Democrats after losing majority power in 2020. They say that historic inflation in food, housing, energy, and gasoline costs — combined with dropping wages — will set the pace for November elections, giving Republicans the wind at their back. In June’s Civitas poll, only 41% of respondents say they plan on voting for Democrats at the national level and 39% at the state level.
Unaffiliated voters were the second-largest group to change parties, behind Democrats. Of the 11,376 unaffiliated voters to change, 6,122 became Republicans, 4,905 became Democrats, and 349 became Libertarians.
The general election is scheduled for Nov. 8. Voters must be registered by Oct. 14.