Unaffiliated voters on track to be largest voting group in NC by 2022, professor says

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – In just the last decade, around 1 million North Carolina voters have switched party affiliations. Some are surprised as to where they’re going.

“It looks like Democrats are the big losers here and unaffiliated is the big winner (and) the biggest gainer of the party switching,” said Chris Cooper with Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.

Cooper is a political scientist. He’s been tracking the numbers. He said that if this pattern continues, the unaffiliated group will be the largest block of voters in the state by 2022.

“As people leave the Democratic party, but they’re not necessarily going to the Republican party, they are going to unaffiliated,” Cooper said. “They are going with the ability to choose which primary they want to vote in, so they can really reinforce this decision we made in North Carolina to allow unaffiliated voters to choose your own adventure when it comes to the primary.”

North Carolina is notorious for having people vote all over a ballot. There are Democratic governors serving alongside Republican lieutenant governors and both parties winning state secretary seats of various agencies all in the same year.

So, it kind of makes sense, but it also produces huge challenges for Republicans, and especially Democrats.

“They need to be able to communicate to voters why it makes sense to lock yourself down with a party,” Cooper said. “These unaffiliated voters are harder to reach. Certainly you can develop voter lists of them but it’s more costly, it’s more difficult, and it also gives them the ability, these unaffiliated voters, to kind of loosen party attachments.”

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