Election Day brings a series of changes in voting for North Carolina’s residents—but the early voting period showed that not all of the modifications have had the expected outcome. Some experts initially said that a 2013 bill limiting early voting, eliminating same-day registration and requiring voters to present identification at polling places would drive down voter turnout. This was anticipated to affect Democrats in particular—whose most loyal constituents, minorities and youth, are already less likely to vote, especially in midterm elections. But early voter turnout has increased across the state, with Democrats accounting for much of the surge. In the year since the bill was passed in the Republican-controlled legislature, it has been labeled by a number of state and national Democrats as a voter suppression campaign.
“These measures are not only unnecessary but have a racially discriminatory impact on voters,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union. But overall voter turnout has increased by nearly 20 percent from the 2010 midterm election, though population increase can account for some of the spike. A particularly large increase in turnout has come from African-American voters, said Josh Lawson, public information officer for the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
When compared to early voting in the 2010 election, African-American turnout has increased 44 percent.David Rohde, the Ernestine Friedl professor of political science, attributed the overall increase in early voting at least in part to activism from the left. “It’s clear that the Democrats have tried to use the change in the law as a motivator for people to go out and vote, implying that the Republicans are trying to restrict their voting,” he said.