Unaffiliated voters now make up the second-largest group of voter registrations in North Carolina, with more registrations in that category than registered Republicans.
The shift has been happening gradually, but unaffiliated registrations passed Republican registrations sometime between Sept. 2 and Sept. 9, according to data released by the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.
As of Tuesday’s data, North Carolina has 2,640,726 registered Democrats (38.9 percent), 2,056,294 voters registered as unaffiliated (30.3 percent), 2,055,758 registered Republicans (30.3 percent) and 33,474 registered Libertarians (0.5 percent).
Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College, said on Twitter that the shift toward unaffiliated registrations is being driven by an increase in millennial voters. Bitzer noted that millennials now make up 30.5 percent of registered voters, and about 40 percent of them have opted to register as unaffiliated – much more than the 30.3 percent of total registered voters who are unaffiliated.
N.C. Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse says the numbers aren’t bad news for the GOP. “Republicans have dramatically closed the gap on Democrats and continue to do so, even this year,” he said in an email Wednesday. “The Republican Party is growing in North Carolina. The Democrat Party is not.”
As of this week, Democrats have 584,968 more registered voters in North Carolina than the Republican Party. But that number has been dropping in recent years. At the beginning of this year, Democrats had an advantage of 636,561 more registered voters. And in January 2010, the numbers favored Democrats by 834,439 registered voters.
“It is important to note that since 2010, Republicans have won unaffiliated voters in every general election,” Woodhouse said. “We must continue to do that to be successful.”