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By The Numbers: State And Federal Elections

Photo: A Massachusetts voting station sign
Katri Niemi
On the final stretch of campaigning, take a look at some of the key numbers to watch for on Election Day.

The 2016 election cycle has been strange, unorthodox, offensive, entertaining, unpredictable, divisive and long.

For more than a year, strategists have tried to use scandals, wedge issues and the media, among other political tools, as candidates chase victory on Election Night. But now, it all comes down to numbers. Here are a few to consider in the final stretch of the campaign.


The number of electoral votes from North Carolina up for grabs.
The electoral allotment from each state can be determined by combining the House and Senate seats. Of North Carolina’s 13 U.S. House seats, 10 are held by Republicans and three by Democrats. If any congressional seats were to change party, it would be considered a surprise.

The number of presidential/gubernatorial ticket-splits since 1968.
There have been a dozen presidential elections since Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey (and George Wallace), 48 years ago. Each of these has coincided with a gubernatorial election in North Carolina. In half of these years, voters selected a Republican president and a Democratic governor. Most states (38 to be exact) hold gubernatorial races in non-presidential election years.

The number of incumbents governors who have lost a re-election bid in North Carolina.
Now to be fair – and clear, this is a small sample size. Governors were not permitted to run for a second term until the late 1970s. Since then, Governors Jim Hunt (twice), Jim Martin and Mike Easley successfully ran for a second term.

The number of seats Democrats in the North Carolina House are trying to pick-up, as they seek to end a Republican supermajority.
The GOP took control of the General Assembly in 2010 for the first time since Reconstruction. Republicans bolstered power by increasing their majority to more than three-fifths in 2012, as Governor McCrory was elected. Democrats believe if they can take back the Executive Mansion and eliminate the House supermajority, the result will be more moderate policy in the state through at least 2018.

6.9 million (approximately)
The number of registered voters in the state.
In 2012, there were more than 6.6 million registered voters in the state. More than 68 percent of them voted, translating to more than more than 4.5 million people in the state casting ballots. If the same percentage of the electorate votes this year, turnout would total in the neighborhood of 4.7 million voters. This year, 3.1 million people in North Carolina who voted did so early.

The number of new registered voters in Wake and Mecklenburg Counties since the 2012 election.
North Carolina now has more than 10 million residents, and the Raleigh and Charlotte urban areas are among the fastest growing in the state. No other counties have seen as many population or registered voter gains as Wake and Mecklenburg. Strategists see these areas as pivotal in races for President, Governor, U.S. Senate, along with the supermajority.

Campaign signs appear outside of the voting location in Barber Park where nearly 300 African-Americans gathered following their church services Sunday morning.
Credit Katie Stephens / WUNC


The number of Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.
Since Washington D.C. received three votes in 1964, there have been 538 Electoral College Votes in the United States. If Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can carry 270, they will become the President elect. A tie, while rare, has precedent and is possible. In the event that these two tie at 269, or neither candidate reaches 270 while a third party candidate (like Independent Evan McMullin, Libertarian Gary Johnson, or Green Party Candidate Jill Stein) carries at least one state, this election will be decided by Congress. Read more here.

The number of political parties that dominate American politics.
Of the 538 seats in Congress, only two are held by Independents – U.S. Senators Angus King (Maine) and Bernie Sanders (Vermont). There are only a handful of third party candidates at the state level. Voters in North Carolina have two alternatives for President this election, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Johnson is a former Republican Governor of New Mexico. He’s on the ballot as a Libertarian. Stein is the Green Party nominee. Her name is not on the ballot in North Carolina. However, the state does have a write-in line. And Stein, because she acquired enough signatures, is the only write-in that the Board of Elections will consider this year. No other write-in votes will be counted.

The last presidential election in which the winner did not receive the most votes.
Vice President Al Gore received about 544,000 more votes than Texas Governor George W. Bush. But the Republican received enough votes in Florida, and won the Electoral College 271-266. The popular vote also lost to the electoral college in 1824, 1876 and 1888.

The number of years Sen. Richard Burr has spent in Congress.
The Republican served five terms in the U.S. House, and is concluding his second term in the Senate. Democrat Deborah Ross, a former state legislator, has mounted a much greater challenge than many strategists expected this time a year ago. History, incumbency, and experience are on the side of Burr. But Ross is running as an outsider, in a year of outsiders. Republicans presently hold a majority in the U.S. Senate. Democrats need to pick up four seats for a tie (which a Vice President would break) and five for a majority. There are a series of 1st term incumbents viewed as vulnerable, including Daniel Coates (R-IN), Roy Blout (R-MO), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Pat Toomey (R-PA). And with minority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) retiring, the open seat in The Battle Born state is an interesting one to watch.     

The number of states with marijuana referendum questions on the ballot.
Voters from coast to coast willconsider the issue of pot. Five of the nine states will vote on recreational use of the substance – Massachusetts, California, Arizona, Maine and Nevada. Passage would allow for adults 21 and older to consume pot recreationally. The other four states – Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota – are deciding whether to establish, or expand, cannabis for medicinal reasons.

$500 million
The total amount of money spent on races for the U.S. Senate this election cycle, per the New York Times.
The most expensive of these U.S. Senate races has been in New Hampshire where Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte is trying to fend off Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan. Money, and all of the ‘dark’ hard to follow contributions, can be hard to track in modern-day politics. In North Carolina, at least $81 million has been spent on the race between Republican incumbent Richard Burr and his Democratic challenger Deborah Ross. And yes, while that’s a lot of money, it’s not nearly as much as the more than $100 million that was spent two years ago when Thom Tillis unseated Kay Hagan.

Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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