The potential impact of one voting change in Durham, N.C.

The North Carolina General Assembly is set to enact a sweeping series of changes to the voting laws. The most high profile change has been the requirement to show an ID to vote. Nate Cohn says the requirement to show an ID would have reduced President Obama’s total in North Carolina by 25,000-30,000 votes, had the proposed law been in effect in 2012. Gov Romney won North Carolina by around 92,000 votes in 2012, but President Obama won North Carolina by ~14,000 votes in 2008.

Below, I estimate that in Durham County, North Carolina alone, President Obama would have had a net reduction of at least 2,460 votes if voters had been unable to register and vote on the same day during early voting; the bill that is about to become law ends this option. I cannot find the data for the same analysis below, conducted statewide.

I could not find information on the number of persons who registered and voted on the same day on the State Board of Elections site (they are included in early vote totals; did I miss it anyone?).  So, I emailed the Durham Board of elections and asked them for this information for the 2012 election and they emailed it to me. What is written below is for Durham County, North Carolina, only, a Democratic Party bastion.

In 2012, 147,497 people voted in Durham County, and 4,766 of them registered and voted on the same day during early voting (3.2% of the votes cast). None of these votes would have been allowed under the new law. Some more detail to place this number in context for Durham.

Link to Durham County, N.C. 2012 election totals (you can find all numbers below at this link except for the 4,766 emailed to me as noted above):

  • 147,497 people voted (only 38,897, or 26.3% of them voted on election day)
  • 102,142 voted in person during early voting
  • 4,766 of the 102,142 (4.7% of in person, early votes) registered and voted on same day during the early voting period. This will no longer be allowed under the new law.
  • 5,015 voted via absentee mail ballot (provision unchanged in the new law)
  • 1,442 voted via approved provisional votes (they came from both early voting, election day, and mail in absentee)

I asked the Durham Board of Elections for the proportion of same day registration/voting that registered by Party, but was told they had not compiled this information for 2012; I am checking to see if it is available for 2008.

President Obama won 75.8% of the vote in Durham County in 2012, so using this share to apply to this registration/voting on the same day would mean 3,613 lost votes for the President, and 1,153 for someone else, for a net reduction of votes from President Obama of 2,460 if the new rules were in place in 2012. I suspect that a far higher share of the 4,766 persons who registered and voted on the same day voted for the President, based on how much more organized the Obama GOTV effort was in Durham compared to the Romney campaign’s (understatement of the year) but would like to answer the question definitively with data.

These are the results for 1 county, for one provision that has changed. I would like to see this analysis statewide, but don’t want to do it! There are many other changes, but I haven’t looked at those here.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was very active in the GOTV efforts for the Obama campaign as chronicled in prior posts (here and here).

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

12 Responses to The potential impact of one voting change in Durham, N.C.

  1. Pingback: Update on Durham, NC Absentee v Same Day Register Voting | freeforall

  2. Pingback: Update on Durham, NC Absentee v Same Day Register Voting « The Reality-Based Community

  3. Pingback: “The potential impact of one voting change in Durham, N.C.” | Election Law Blog

  4. Charles_Martel says:

    It could be argued, of course, that the Obama vote totals in both ’08 and ’12 were unjustly enriched from a no-ID policy, if one believes that matching an ID to the vote is an appropriate regulation in a democratic system. The new law, in this view, would correct the “over-vote” for that candidate.

    I’d be interested in knowing whether the presentation of an ID in order to obtain or register a mail-in ballot is a requirement under the new law.

  5. Mike Hanmer says:

    I agree that the 75.8% estimate for Obama’s vote share among same day early voters is probably an underestimate. But working with that, the 2,460 estimate of Obama votes lost seems more like an upper bound as it assumes none of those voters would have registered earlier if they had to.

    • Don Taylor says:

      that is possible, that some of them planned to do the same day reg/vote. Maybe after the dust settles a good Masters project for a student is to try and do an evidence-based-with sensitivity analyses projection of the magnitudes of effect implied by this law.

  6. Pingback: Do Absentee Mail Voters have to show ID in North Carolina? | freeforall

  7. Pingback: Do Absentee Mail Voters have to show ID in North Carolina? « The Reality-Based Community

  8. Sam says:

    Very great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have truly loved browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I am hoping you write again very soon!

  9. The right to vote shall not be denied or abridged. That phrase appears AT LEAST four times in the Constitution of the United States. Yet in North Carolina, it is now easier to buy a firearm than it is to vote.

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