A detailed analysis of the 2012 election reveals how the 12,900 Ashe County voters cast their ballots in last year’s election.
According to data collected from Democracy North Carolina, Republican Mitt Romney recieved 8,242 votes from Ashe County voters, twice as many as President Barack Obama’s county total of 4,116 votes.
The data also revealed Ashe County had a 67.6 percent registration voting rate, giving the county a rank of 60 among 100 North Carolina counties for voter turnout.
“We had a slightly higher turnout than two years ago, and according to the numbers, a higher turnout than four years ago,” said Shepherd.
Shepherd said the major reason Ashe County’s participation was up was due to the county’s aging population. According to Shepherd, voters in higher age brackets are more likely to vote than those in lower age brackets.
Ashe County voters also selected other Republicans during the election, including N.C. Senator Dan Soucek, Representative Jonathan Jordan, and commissioners Larry Rhodes, Gerald Price and Gary Roark.
Cullie Tarleton, a Democratic candidate running for Jordan’s N.C. house district seat in the 2012 election, said 60 percent of the voters in Ashe County voted straight ticket Republican, making it virtually impossible for a Democratic candidate to win.
Another new trend in Ashe County is the 50 percent of county voters who cast their ballots early, a higher percentage than seen in past years.
“It seems to be a growing trend,” said Shepherd.
Some of Ashe County highlights include:
- Ashe County had 5,900 voters who were registered as Republicans, 4,358 Democrats, 23 Libertarians, and 2,619 voters were unaffiliated.
- Ashe County had 756 voters in the 18-25 age bracket, 2,107 voters from ages 26-40, 6,327 voters from ages 41-65, and ages 66 and up supplied 3,709 voters.
Like Ashe County, Republicans outperformed their counterparts, turning out their members at a higher rate than Democrats in 65 of the 100 counties.
The statewide gap in participation rates for the major parties was three percentage points – 73 percent of registered Republicans voted, compared to 70 percent of Democrats. But in 21 counties (mostly western counties), Republicans outperformed Democrats by more than 7 points. In 13 counties (mostly eastern counties), Democrats outdid Republicans by more than 5 percentage points.
Statewide, Romney beat Obama by a narrow margin of 92,004 votes. This close race, along with split results in the 10 counties with the highest voter turnout, reflects North Carolina’s status as a swing state.
Five of the top 10 counties with the highest turnout selected Republican Mitt Romney (Davie, Person, Moore, Greene and Beaufort) and five went for Democratic candidate Barack Obama (Chatham, Warren, Wake, Granville and Hertford).
Although voters unaffiliated with a political party now outnumber registered Democrats or Republicans in 42 counties, they are less engaged and voted at a lower level than members of the major parties in 97 of the 100 counties (the exceptions are Avery, Bertie and Mitchell). Statewide, 60 percent of unaffiliated voters cast ballots compared to 70 pecent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans.
According to Hall’s analysis of the election, the percent of black voters who cast a ballot exceeded the turnout rate for registered white voters in 64 counties. According to the analysis, 85 percent of African-American voters are registered as Democrats.
According to Hall, the two groups with the most enthusiasm to vote in 2012 were African-American women and white Republicans; they each posted a 74% turnout rate, well ahead of the 68% statewide rate.
“The presidential election was a polarizing, emotional experience for core supporters of both major candidates,” said Hall. “Candidates, parties and interest groups invested in mobilizing voters and helped them understand that their vote was important for themselves and for society.”
Also, more women voted than men in every single county, and seniors over age 65 outnumbered young voters ages 18 to 25 in all but four counties with major universities – Orange, Watauga, Pitt and Durham.
According to Hall, the impact of the criminal justice system on the African-American community also shows up in the state’s voting data.
Women cast 54 percent of the white votes in 2012, but a remarkable 61 percent of the black votes, largely because, according to Hall, so many black men have been convicted of a felony.
North Carolina temporarily suspends a person’s right to vote while the person serves a felony sentence, but Hall said many people believe the suspension is permanent, causing them to skip voting.
“This is one more area where education is critical and where barriers have a real impact on participation,” said Hall.