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Voter Turnout Strong Overall In 2016, But Weak For Younger Voters

Voter stickers
Jason deBruyn

Voter registration in the state is up and turnout for the 2016 election was high, according to an analysis by Democracy North Carolina. North Carolina ranked 11th in the nation for turnout among eligible voters in 2016, with 69 percent of the state’s 6.9 million registered voters casting ballots in November.

That's way up from 2000 when the Tar Heel state ranked 37th, according to Bob Hall. Hall is executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a voting rights group that analyzed data from the State Board of Elections. "But,” Hall added, “when you go deeper and look at subgroups you see quite a bit of variation."

Hall's analysis shows turnout for Republican women and men, in particular, was robust, especially when compared with the number of 18 to 25-year-old eligible who cast ballots in 2016.

Three out of four Republican women voted in 2016 with Republican men right behind at 75 percent. Whereas, noted Hall, barely half of registered young people, aged 18 to 25, turned out. Hall said that's a stark difference--at 53 percent--from the 60 percent turnout for that group in 2008, during Barack Obama's first White House run.

For Latino voters, registration has climbed, from 68,000 in 2008, to 167,000, in 2016. However, Hall said, the turnout rate of 58 percent of registered Latino voters lags behind, partly because many Latino voters are younger. "About 30 percent of registered Latino voters are in the 18-to-25-year-old age group, compared to 10 percent of white voters."

Hall said the analysis shows African-American Democratic women posted a strong showing for the 2016 elections, with 72 percent turning out to vote. Baby boomers, too, turned out in large numbers for the 2016 elections.

"That age group, 66-plus, had a record turnout of 78 percent, over a million voters that are 66 and older," he said.

The other notable development is the increase in registered voters who are unaffiliated with any party. In the last eight years, Hall said, North Carolina has seen a net gain of 700,000 registered voters. "Nearly all of that change is attributable to the increase in unaffiliated voters," he said, but they are not voting at the same rate--63 percent--as affiliated voters.

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