Saturday, January 22, 2022

Split-ticket voting leads to mix of Democrat, Republican wins in NC

— After months as a purple state, North Carolina tipped into the red column Tuesday night.

While the numbers were close, Donald Trump pulled ahead with 50 percent of the vote, but those Trump supporters did not necessarily vote Republican down the ballot.

Voters in North Carolina sent Republican Richard Burr back to Washington for his third term in the U.S. Senate, and Republican Dan Forest will return as lieutenant governor.

Democrat Roy Cooper won all of the counties Hillary Clinton won, plus four extra counties that voted for Donald Trump. Cooper’s home county of Nash, plus Granville, Jackson and New Hanover, which was hit hard by the end of film incentives and House Bill 2, all elected the Democrat.

Republican Pat McCrory got a few less votes in many counties than Trump did – 62,902 fewer votes statewide – while Cooper got 119,072 more votes statewide than Clinton, a percent or two in most counties.

Those numbers indicate that some Trump voters split their ticket and voted for Cooper.

“Even with the Republican tide, there were enough voters that wanted to split their ticket to be against him is how I would read it,” said longtime Democratic political analyst Mac McCorkle.”It’s pretty extraordinary.”

McCorkle, now teaching at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, said North Carolinians often voted split tickets in decades past, but not in recent elections.

“We have more and more trended, like all other states, to highly polarized straight-ticket Democrat and Republican voting. That still was the trend here,” McCorkle said. “In historic terms, the split apparently toward Cooper was not that great, but it is that great compared to current conditions where the votes are so ideologically polarized.”

In another unusual outcome, Democratic Supreme Court candidate Mike Morgan unseated incumbent Republican Bob Edmunds by nearly 10 points, even though all five Court of Appeals races went to the GOP.

McCorkle said the fact that Supreme Court candidates, unlike Court of Appeals candidates, are not given partisan labels under state law may have led to some voter confusion.

“How a split ticket happened there – it may have been ballot position, I don’t know,” McCorkle said, referring to the fact that Morgan was listed above Edmunds on the ballot. “That one is probably the biggest stumper of the night.”

On the Council of State, Republicans beat two sitting Democrats – State Schools Superintendent June Atkinson and State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin. But two other sitting Democrats appear to have kept their seats – Auditor Beth Wood and .Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

“There was not that much split-ticket voting,” McCorkle explained. “But there was some very creative split-ticket voting on the margins here that is going to be very perplexing for anybody to completely understand.”

The county vote counts will not be finalized until Nov. 18.

A special thank you to our friends at WRAL for helping out with this post.

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