The line wraps around the corner of the building as hundreds of voters came out on the first day of early voting at the Hope Mills Recreation Center in Hope Mills, N.C., on Oct. 20, 2016. The town was still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Matthew, which came through the area earlier in the month. Photo: Chris Seward, News & Observer

Despite an all-out push that included visits by President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and civil rights icon John Lewis, African-American turnout for early voting in North Carolina dropped 9 percent compared to four years ago, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

That makes North Carolina “unusual among Southeastern states,” where early voting among African Americans generally increased this year, the newspaper said.

Going into Election Day, more than 3.1 million people have already voted. Nearly 32 percent of the early vote was Republican this year, up slightly from 31.5 percent four years ago.

North Carolina stands out among some other southeastern states where African-American turnout was up — Georgia, Louisiana, and Florida — Michael McDonald, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida, told the N&O.

Changes in early voting in the state, such as moved or reduced voting locations, and purges of voter rolls may be a factor, he said. It’s possible that fewer African-Americans are engaged, but with turnout higher in the other states, that cannot be the entire explanation, McDonald said.

“There are other things going on here other than enthusiasm,” he said. “It turns my stomach to see those kinds of declines in a particular group of people who have had difficulty voting in the past.”

The state GOP in a press release pointed to the decline in African-American early voting, saying it was part of the crumbling of President Barack Obama’s voter coalition.

Among a handful of battleground states, North Carolina was views as pivotal for Republican Donald Trump’s campaign. In the last two presidential election cycles, the state swung from Obama in 2008 to Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

In 2016, most polls showed Democrat Hillary Clinton with a slight lead over Trump going into election day.

In an effort to boost turnout among African Americans in North Carolina, President Obama and the first lady each made visits to the state in the campaign’s final weeks, campaigning enthusiastically for Clinton. Georgia congressman John Lewis also traveled to North Carolina, stopping in Charlotte to hold a rally and to lead a mile-long march to an early voting station on the city’s west side.

In looking to explain the decline among African American, some pointed to the possible effects of Hurricane Matthew, which brought deadly flooding to parts of some eastern counties.

In Robeson County, African-American early voting dropped 25, the N&O reported. In addition, turnout for black voters was down nearly 15 percent in Edgecombe County, and more than 20 percent in Nash, Northampton and Halifax counties.


Founder and publisher of Qcitymetro, Glenn has worked at newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.