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North Carolina’s battle for unaffiliated voting bloc challenging — here’s the key

CHARLOTTE, USA - MARCH 05: A voting sign is seen as voters are heading to polls to cast their ballots in presidential primary elections on Super Tuesday in Charlotte, NC, United States on March 5, 2024. Voters are heading to polls in 15 US states and one territory to cast their ballots in presidential primary elections on Tuesday, widely known as Super Tuesday. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Those signing up unaffiliated, on the other hand, are now the largest voting bloc.

Quite a journey from trailing Democrats 47.6%-17.7% in share midway of the Bush administration.

Two experts of state politics and campaigns agree there’s more to the story than sheer numbers.

And strategies in the next 140 days should be chess rather than checkers.

“In some research I’ve conducted with Michael Bitzer, Whitney Ross Manzo and Susan Roberts, we found that unaffiliated voters are best understood as ‘unmoored voters,’” Chris Cooper, a political science and public affairs professor at Western Carolina University, told The Center Square on Wednesday.

“They tend to stay near their partisan docks, but, with nothing tying them there, a large change in political weather may send them in unpredictable directions.”

Reliability in turnout is also in play with the group.

“The rise of unaffiliated voters makes the political landscape a little less predictable for campaigns,” Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, told The Center Square on Wednesday.

“It forces them to rely on other data, such as which primaries unaffiliated voters vote in or what media they consume, to predict which party they are more likely to support. It forces campaigns to spend more effort and money on their get-out-the-vote operations.”

Jackson, like Cooper, said unaffiliated voters “behave like weak partisans.”

He estimates 10% as truly independent, meaning evenly dividing support of parties.

In 20 years, since Jan. 1, 2004, the state’s population has increased 26.7%.

Through Saturday, the voter registrations had changed significantly as well – the more than 5 million then split 47.6% Democrats, 34.4% Republicans and 17.7% unaffiliated, to now more than 7.4 million split 37.2% unaffiliated, 31.9% Democrats and 30% Republicans.

In 20 years, since Jan. 1, 2004, the state’s population has increased 26.7%.

In volume number, while the state’s population more than doubled in 20 years to better than 10.8 million, Democrats have just 11,854 more registrations – and 220,040 less than the day Joe Biden was elected president.

Republicans are up more than 525,000 over the two decades, and are down 25,573 since Nov. 7, 2020.

The voters choosing unaffiliated, meanwhile, have grown from fewer than 900,000 to more than 2.8 million.

During the Biden administration, the number has risen 353,566.

The bloc grew 387,096 in the four years between elections won and lost by former President Donald Trump.

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