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July 26, 2013 10:53 AM How North Carolina Is Making it Harder to Vote

By Don Taylor

The North Carolina General Assembly is set to enact a sweeping series of changes to the voting laws. The most high profile change has been the requirement to show an ID to vote. Nate Cohn says the requirement to show an ID would have reduced President Obama’s total in North Carolina by 25,000-30,000 votes, had the proposed law been in effect in 2012. Gov Romney won North Carolina by around 92,000 votes in 2012, but President Obama won North Carolina by ~14,000 votes in 2008.

Below, I estimate that in Durham County, North Carolina alone, President Obama would have had a net reduction of at least 2,460 votes if voters had been unable to register and vote on the same day during early voting; the bill that is about to become law ends this option. I cannot find the data for the same analysis below, conducted statewide.

I could not find information on the number of persons who registered and voted on the same day on the State Board of Elections site (they are included in early vote totals; did I miss it anyone?). So, I emailed the Durham Board of elections and asked them for this information for the 2012 election and they emailed it to me. What is written below is for Durham County, North Carolina, only, a Democratic Party bastion.

In 2012, 147,497 people voted in Durham County, and 4,766 of them registered and voted on the same day during early voting (3.2% of the votes cast). None of these votes would have been allowed under the new law. Some more detail to place this number in context for Durham.

Link to Durham County, N.C. 2012 election totals (you can find all numbers below at this link except for the 4,766 emailed to me as noted above):

  • 147,497 people voted (only 38,897, or 26.3% of them voted on election day)
  • 102,142 voted in person during early voting
  • 4,766 of the 102,142 (4.7% of in person, early votes) registered and voted on same day during the early voting period. This will no longer be allowed under the new law.
  • 5,015 voted via absentee mail ballot (provision unchanged in the new law)
  • 1,442 voted via approved provisional votes (they came from both early voting, election day, and mail in absentee)

I asked the Durham Board of Elections for the proportion of same day registration/voting that registered by Party, but was told they had not compiled this information for 2012; I am checking to see if it is available for 2008.

President Obama won 75.8% of the vote in Durham County in 2012, so using this share to apply to this registration/voting on the same day would mean 3,613 lost votes for the President, and 1,153 for someone else, for a net reduction of votes from President Obama of 2,460 if the new rules were in place in 2012. I suspect that a far higher share of the 4,766 persons who registered and voted on the same day voted for the President, based on how much more organized the Obama GOTV effort was in Durham compared to the Romney campaign’s (understatement of the year) but would like to answer the question definitively with data.

These are the results for 1 county, for one provision that has changed. I would like to see this analysis statewide, but don’t want to do it! There are many other changes, but I haven’t looked at those here.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was very active in the GOTV efforts for the Obama campaign as chronicled in prior posts (here and here).

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

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Don Taylor is an associate professor of public policy at Duke University, where his teaching and research focuses on health policy.