RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — When the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, some experts braced for a big spike in the number of women who were motivated enough to register to vote.
In North Carolina anyway, that hasn’t happened yet.
State Board of Elections data show that when it comes to gender, the state is registering voters at virtually the exact same pace that it was before the last midterm elections in 2018.
“We know from the past that decisions like this, although very important and can mobilize voters, are unlikely to have immediate effects on voter registration as a whole,” said Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University.
So why did the CEO of a left-leaning political data group say that — when it comes to voter registration in North Carolina since the court’s landmark ruling on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which stripped abortion protections and left the issue up to the states — women are outperforming men, and attributing it to that decision?
Both Cooper and Andrew Jackson, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, says there are better ways to track what motivates voters than registration data.
“We’re kind of more interested in, as political scientists, in election outcomes and opinion surveys, probably more than voter registration,” Taylor said. “They tend to, I think, help us understand these political developments more.”
Between June 18 — shortly before the court withdrew the nationwide right to abortion and left the issue up to the states — and Aug. 20, roughly 33,000 people registered to vote, state BOE data show.
About 12,000 of them were listed as women, compared to 11,000 men and 10,000 who didn’t have their gender recorded.
That’s almost exactly the same breakdown during the same timeframe in 2018 — the year of the last midterm election — when 14,000 of the 34,000 newly registered voters were women.
That Democratic firm, TargetSmart, also says 70 percent of new registrants in Kansas recently were women. Voters in that state rejected a measure that would have allowed lawmakers to tighten restrictions or ban the procedure outright.
“They did find some pretty compelling trends in other states that I think are real and that are borne out in the data,” Cooper said. “We just didn’t see that kind of movement in voter registration here in North Carolina.”
Why not? The best explanation might be one of timing.
The issue already showed up on the ballot in Kansas, but not in North Carolina — where the primary election was in May, a month before the court’s ruling. A federal judge reinstated North Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban earlier this month and the state’s legislative leaders are mulling whether or not to go even further, far too recently to show up in any voter registration trends.
Taylor says the appearance of the issue on the ballot “might have something to do with it.”
“The suspicion is that if Dobbs is going to be of benefit to Democrats in the fall, then it would be largely in terms of perhaps winning over a few people in the middle and revving up a base,” Taylor said. “Which is often important because, especially in midterm elections when there is no presidential contest at the top of the ballot, turnout is important.”