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).

cross posted at freeforall

Comments

  1. Keith Humphreys says

    Always good to have data Don, thanks for these. Do we know anything about rigor with which poll workers apply voter ID laws? For example, does Mrs. Smith, volunteering for the day really refuse to let someone she knows from church, or whose grandkids go to school with her grandkids etc. truly prevent that person from voting if they don’t have an ID?

    • Anonymous says

      I don’t really know. In Durham, what you note is often the case, meaning we have small precincts and many of the poll workers (from my GOTV experience) seem to know everyone who comes to vote. One other change is that in the past, a poll watcher had to live in the precinct in question to challenge the identity of a voter. Now it has been opened up, and that is no longer true. I think they must be a resident of N.C., but it opens up notion of people going into precincts and challenging voters….and we also expanded conceal weapon laws this time….what could go wrong?

  2. Bloix says

    The Republican plan is to appeal only to white voters in the target swing states, and to prevent as many non-whites from voting as they possibly can. And there’s no reason it can’t work – especially with the Supreme Court fully on board in support of the strategy.

  3. Norm says

    The Republican plan is to remove the possibility of people voting multiple times at multiple locations. Even non-citizens can do this if there is no requirement for ID.

    • Anonymous says

      This is the most comprehensive report I have seen investigating voter fraud, from the 2012 election in Ohio. This is a Repub Sec of State who admitted he was looking hard for it, and found very little. It is like any regulation: assess the harm, assess the fix, weigh the costs and the benefits. Costs greatly outweigh the benefits I think. http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/mediaCenter/2013/2013-05-23.aspx 5.6 Million votes, 135 cases looked into, 20 referred to Atty General, most of these attempts were actually stopped via an interstate compact looking for voters voting in two states.

  4. Don Taylor says

    This is the most comprehensive report I have seen investigating voter fraud, from the 2012 election in Ohio. This is a Repub Sec of State who admitted he was looking hard for it, and found very little. It is like any regulation: assess the harm, assess the fix, weigh the costs and the benefits. Costs greatly outweigh the benefits I think. http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/mediaCenter/2013/2013-05-23.aspx 5.6 Million votes, 135 cases looked into, 20 referred to Atty General, most of these attempts were actually stopped via an interstate compact looking for voters voting in two states.

  5. says

    One of the arguments in favor of allowing voter restriction efforts is that it isn’t motivated by racism, but rather merely campaign strategy. What’s weird about this though, is that putting aside the question of motivation, the actual effect, or outcome, seems precisely the same. So, for instance, if the GOP was trying to restrict voting and made statements to the effect that they believed blacks were inferior, the restrictions would be intolerable racists acts. Yet because no such claims are being made by the GOP, yet the effect is exactly the same, the restrictions are perfectly acceptable.

      • Brett Bellmore says

        More like, with 90% or more of blacks voting Democratic, is there ANYTHING you could do to suppress the Democratic turnout, (A non-racist goal, though I’ll gladly state that it’s no more a legitimate aim of government policy than, say, enhancing Democratic turnout.) that wouldn’t have disparate impact? Democrats are disparately black!

        I think the most we can ask for is, that these policies be neutrally defensible.

    • Byomtov says

      I don’t think that’s legitimate campaign strategy.

      How can it be OK for an elections commissioner to put too few voting machines in precincts known to favor the opposite party?