Voter registration in North Carolina increased by over 122,000 voters leading up to the 2018 election, despite it being a midterm with no gubernatorial or federal races aside from the U.S. House of Representatives.
As of Aug. 4, North Carolina had 6,970,461 total registered voters. As of Nov. 6, the total rose to 7,092,686.
Thomas Eamon, a political science professor at East Carolina University, said he has never seen this much interest in a midterm election — both across the country and in North Carolina.
“The amazing thing about North Carolina is that not only is it not a presidential year, but we are not electing a governor, and we aren’t electing a U.S. Senator,” Eamon said. “You would simply expect the interest level and participation level to be down, but instead it is substantially higher than it has been in any midterm election.”
Eamon said he has observed more public information leading up to this election, possibly because of the current political climate and its mobilizing effect on voters.
“There has been more information this time because there are very strong feeling on all sides," he said. "Of course, the congressional races are largely a Trump vs. anti-Trump sort of thing. There are other factors in some of the other races, but I have been observing this for a long time, and I have never seen as much interest in an election where we are not electing a governor or a U.S. Senator.”
Bridget Killian, coordinator for the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group's New Voter Project, said the organization registered 800,000 people across the country on National Voter Registration Day.
She said UNC’s chapter of NCPIRG registered 150 people on campus.
“I think people have been more interested this year in the elections since they’re a little bit bigger and more publicized than last year’s local elections,” Killian said. “I would love to see people get this excited about every election — especially the ones that affect us locally — but I’m so glad to see that every year, people are getting more and more excited to be active citizens who are politically engaged.”
The voter engagement on UNC’s campus showed during early voting, when 1,115 people voted at Chapel of the Cross on Nov. 2 during early voting. Chapel of the Cross had the highest volume of any Orange County location that day.
Eamon said early voter turnout has also been higher this election in general, and he expects the pattern of high turnout to follow through on election day.
“As long as there is someone who attracts both the intense hate and the intense admiration that Trump does, then we are likely to see a very mobilized public, which means a higher turnout,” he said.
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