Charlotte Mayoral Election – A look at who voted in the 2013 primary

In addition to the Democratic primary runoff in South Carolina Senate District #45, there is municipal voting today in Toledo, Ohio, and Charlotte, North Carolina.  In Charlotte, there is both a Democratic and Republican primary for Mayor.  On the Democratic side, six candidates are running, and a recent Charlotte Observer poll (which you can read more about here) found former County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts with a sizable lead over incumbent Dan Clodfelter, a pair of City Council members, and two others.  Note that Mr. Clodfelter is an appointed incumbent, having been selected by Charlotte City Council after 2013’s elected Mayor, Patrick Cannon, resigned prior to being convicted and jailed for corruption.  In North Carolina, a candidate must receive greater than 40% of the vote or face a runoff election against the second-place finisher.  If a runoff is needed in the Democratic primary, it will take place in three weeks, on October 3rd.

There is also a primary on the Republican side between 2011 Mayoral nominee Scott Stone and 2013 nominee Edwin Peacock III, as well as contested Democratic battles for the four at-large City Council seats, and in Council districts 2, 3, and 5.  The polls close in Charlotte at 7:30 ET.

Unlike many U.S. cities, the Mayor’s office in Charlotte has been held by both Democrats and Republicans in recent years.  Republican Pat McCrory, who was elected Governor of North Carolina in 2012, served seven two-year terms from 1995 to 2009.  Since then, Democrats have won the last three Mayoral elections, although two of them have been very close.

While waiting for the polls to close, I spent time analyzing Mecklenburg County’s voter history file looking for clues about voter turnout.  Here are some findings:

There were 25,179 votes cast in the 2013 Democratic primary for Mayor of Charlotte.  Of those, 24,398 (96.9%) were by people who are still active registered voters.  The number of votes cast in the 2013 Republican Mayoral primary was 9,004, and 8,843 (98.2%) of them were by those who are still registered voters as well.

Since virtually all those who voted in the 2013 primaries are still registered voters in Charlotte two years later, we can make observations and draw conclusions about that subgroup and feel fairly confident that it reflects the characteristics of the whole group of 2013 primary voters, such as:

In 2013, Democratic Primary voters were overwhelmingly female (63%), while Republican primary voters were pretty much evenly split.  Republican primary voters from 2013 were overwhelmingly white (95%), while Democratic primary voters were predominantly black (70%).  The median age of all 2013 Democratic primary voters was 56.  The median age of 2013 Republican primary voters was 62.  What is most surprising to me are those median age numbers, particularly on the Democratic side.  I know people become more reliable voters as they get older, but I still didn’t expect those medians to be as high as they are. 

There are also some interesting observations about voting behavior.  Of those 33, 241 voters in the 2013 Mayoral primary who are still actively registered and thus in the current voter history file:

  • 82% had voted in the May 2012 primary (for Governor and other state executive positions, Congress, and the state legislature) and 98% voted in the November 2012 General Election (President Obama’s re-election).
  • 88% voted in the November 2013 General Municipal election two months later.  This was the other surprise in this data.  I expected that if someone cared enough to vote in the primary, he or she would be engaged enough to vote in the corresponding general election, especially since it was a close race.  88% is a high number, but I thought it would be even higher.
  • 64% voted in the May 2014 primary for U.S. Senate, Congress, and state legislative seats.
  • 94% voted in the November 2014 General Election.

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