With just six months remaining before we vote on November 2, 2004, it is important that we confront our choices before we step into the voting booth. Recently,
I had the refreshing experience to hear a presentation by Mr. John Davis, Executive Director of the North Carolina Forum for Research and Economic Education, also known as NC FREE. He outlined the election process in 2004.
NC FREE tracks elections results, trends and statistics regarding over 200 races on the state and federal level in North Carolina. Its flagship publication is a 750-page compilation of facts and figures on the N.C. Council of State, 170 members of the state legislature, N.C. Court of Appeals, N.C. Supreme Court and federal delegation. The Almanac of North Carolina Politics includes voting records on business legislation, a listing of PAC contributors, and 240 key demographic and political facts on every legislative and congressional district.
NC FREE is a business think tank with a mission to foster a politically educated and involved North Carolina business community. A membership organization based in North Carolina, dues range from $350 to $12,500 per year.
From his research, Mr. Davis predicted that while there are 113 Democrats and 105 Republicans currently holding office, there will likely be an equal number of Democrats and Republicans after the 2004 elections. He said this shift from a Democratic majority to a more balanced split of Democrats and Republicans is largely the result of North Carolina’s population growth since 1996. He quickly added that most of that growth has been in the 15 primarily urban counties gathered along I-85. One-half of all North Carolina voters reside in those 15 urban counties and the other one-half reside in the other 85 more rural counties. He emphasized that this growing urbanization of power in North Carolina would substantially increase the power of urban areas to the benefit of cities, resulting in more urban leaders of the state legislature like our own “Speaker Jim Black,” and more urban power in the state legislature and on state committees.
Mr. Davis also commented on the power of individual votes. He said that Republican voters have grown from 10% of the state’s voting population to nearly 35% and those counties with a registration of 35% Republican usually elect Republican politicians. He also said that when voter registration is at 55% or more for Democrats then Democrats win. Even given those indicators, he still concludes that 60% of all voters are ticket splitters. He suggests that most Republican growth has come from an influx of pro-government Republicans who have moved to North Carolina from the Northeast region of the U.S. including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
NC FREE also tracked recent trends in women voters finding that 55% of all voters are women and that women voters generally support women candidates regardless of party. He remarked that there was a substantial crossover of Democratic women voting for Elizabeth Dole in 2002. He went on to say that feminine first names usually attract feminine voters and that women are likely winners in statewide races.
With over 5,000,000 voters in North Carolina, about 2,400,000 are registered as Democrats and 1,750,000 are registered as Republicans. Another 900,000 are independents or unaffiliated.
This year, besides choosing our President, we also have the responsibility of electing our Governor, one U.S. Senator, members of Congress, our N.C. Council of State and Judges. It is a huge task making informed decisions in a limited period of time. We can rely on our political parties, but it appears that unaffiliated and independent voters as well as ticket-splitters make the real difference. It is time to begin making choices. Plan to vote!