With roughly 44 percent of registered voters participating in 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, the impact of changes to North Carolina’s election law on the overall turnout remains unclear. Supporters of the changes – which include a shorter early voting period and the loss of same-day registration – say the turnout shows that claims of “voter suppression” were unfounded. Early voting participation and early turnout among minorities was higher than in 2010. But liberal groups say the turnout would have been even higher had the Republican-dominated legislature rejected the changes. They point to a study by Democracy North Carolina that estimated that 50,000 voters were “silenced” by the new law. That figure was generated from calls to a voting hotline, reports from volunteer poll monitors and a review of past election data. A deluge of ads in the most expensive U.S. Senate race in state history didn’t change turnout much. It barely increased, from 43.3 percent in 2010 to 44.3 percent this year.
“What I saw overall was an increase in turnout, and especially in the African-American community, the increase in turnout was even bigger,” said Susan Myrick, an elections analyst for the conservative Civitas Institute. “I wouldn’t say that the voter law impacted the turnout at all.”
Data released this month show 42.2 percent of black registered voters participated in this year’s election, a nearly 2-point increase from 2010. Turnout in the 18-25 age group went up 3 percent to 17.8 percent of registered voters.
Not everyone was impressed by the turnout figures. Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said many had expected the numbers to rival a presidential election year. The final tallies didn’t come close to the 68.2 percent turnout two years ago.