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North Carolina’s Early Voting Locations Illegally Favor Democrats

Data reveals noncompliance with a North Carolina statutory requirement for neutrality in early voting venues.

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North Carolina’s early voting locations operated on college campuses disproportionately favor Democrats in violation of state statute, new research suggests. A report from the nonpartisan think tank Verity Vote analyzed North Carolina’s early voting locations (One Stop Voting), campus voter registration, and early ballots cast. Data reveals noncompliance with a North Carolina statutory requirement for neutrality in early voting venues.

College students disproportionately favor one political party. That is not breaking news. Edison Research polling shows a 28-point margin for Democrats among young people. A 2022 study by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology found that Democrats outnumber Republicans on college campuses by a 55-23 margin nationwide. While the size of the partisan advantage for Democrats among college students has grown significantly in the last decade, the fact that it exists has been well-documented since the 1960s. College faculty and staff also disproportionately favor one party. A 2020 study of more than 20,000 faculty members found 48.4 percent were registered Democrats and only 5.7 percent were registered Republicans.

North Carolina statute §163‑227.6 prohibits the use of early voting sites that disproportionately favor any party or candidate. The requirement for election officials to select early voting locations that confer no partisan political advantage is being violated in more than a dozen counties across the state of North Carolina.  

More North Carolinians choose to vote early rather than on Election Day. In 2022, more than 53 percent of ballots were cast at One Stop Voting locations. Therefore, decisions related to these locations can significantly affect the election.  

Calculating Partisanship

North Carolina voter registration reflects a roughly even partisan makeup. Statewide voter registration shows that nearly 37 percent of individuals register as unaffiliated. Democrats make up approximately 32 percent, and Republicans account for 30 percent of the statewide registered voters.

The countywide partisan ratio is a meaningful benchmark for selecting neutral locations for each county. Not every county has the same partisan makeup, but a location considered for One Stop Voting should not deviate significantly from the county ratio.  

Using the state board of elections’ voter registration file, county and individual precinct partisan ratios can be calculated by dividing the number of registered Democrats by the total number of registered Democrats and registered Republicans. Using that formula, the statewide partisan ratio calculation is 51.8. Unaffiliated and minor party registrants were omitted.

OSV Locations on College Campuses Showing Democrat Advantage
College or University  OSV LocationCountyDemocrat To Major Party Ratio in Campus PrecinctAdvantage over Countywide Ratio
Winston-Salem State UnivFORSYTH96.5%38.7%
Fayetteville State UnivixCUMBERLAND95.7%31.8%
A&T State UnivGUILFORD94.8%31.1%
UNC AshevilleBUNCOMBE90.5%28.7%
Elizabeth City State UnivPASQUOTANK83.2%24.4%
Appalachian State UnivWATAUGA71.5%24.0%
UNC GreensboroGUILFORD86.5%22.8%
UNC CharlotteMECKLENBURG83.8%16.3%
NC Central UnivDURHAM99.5%15.3%
NCS Univ RaleighWAKE76.2%14.3%
Western Carolina UnivJACKSON59.2%9.6%
UNC Chapel Hill ixORANGE87.5%8.4%
Duke UnivDURHAM90.5%6.3%
East Carolina Univ (Student)PITT63.9%2.9%
Queens UnivMECKLENBURG62.7%-4.7%
East Carolina Univ (Willis)PITT39.9%-21.1%
(Community college locations have no student housing; ix campus adjacent)

When One-Stop Voting is located on college campuses, it can also present a barrier for voting by the noncampus population due to restricted campus parking and access. Signage requiring permits in certain lots and complex campus navigation can make access to the polling location a challenge for individuals who are not familiar with or do not regularly access the campus as a student, employee, or faculty member.

The results of the 2020 presidential election were used to examine not just the disproportionate advantage for registered Democrats, but the actual votes cast at campus One Stop locations by all voters, including the large percentage of unaffiliated voters who voted early at the campus sites. Comparing the overall county election results from the 2020 presidential election to the results from the campus early-voting locations shows a significant advantage for the Democrat candidate.

Sample County Election Results v. Campus OSV Location Results

Wake CountyTotal VotesCounty %NC State Campus One StopCampus OS %
Biden393,33662.5%16,02076%
Trump226,19735.8%4,54022%
Durham CountyTotal VotesCounty %Duke Univ Campus One StopCampus OS %
Biden144,68880.4%11,18888%
Trump32,45918.0%1,28310%
Buncombe CountyTotal VotesCounty %UNC Asheville One StopCampus OS %
Biden63,59459.7%4,37590%
Trump20,17638.6%4279%
Watauga CountyTotal VotesCounty %Appalachian Campus One StopCampus OS %
Biden17,12253.1%5,21279%
Trump14,45144.9%1,23319%
New Hanover CountyTotal VotesCounty %Cape Fear Comm-Coll One StopCampus OS %
Biden66,13850.2%4,94182%
Trump63,33148.0%99416%

There are more than 126 colleges and universities in North Carolina, but on inspection, only 24 had early-voting locations on or adjacent to campus. Each of 17 non-community college campuses with early-voting sites were participants in Civic Nation’s All In Democracy Challenge.

Civic Nation is one of dozens of progressive nonprofit organizations that have established a college student turnout machine. While many of the organizations claim to be nonpartisan, voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote on college campuses have a high return on investment for Democrats. When Civic Nation announced its campus get-out-the-vote initiatives in 2016, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities opted not to endorse the All In Challenge because of its ties to the Obama administration. 

“It was hard to know where one ended and the other began,” said David Warren, president of the private college association. “The issue of the White House and Civic Nation, either separately or together, moving in this direction struck me as an entangling perception at best that I did not want.”

Early voting locations in precincts that disproportionately favor either party create an unfair advantage. The North Carolina General Assembly clearly intended that polling locations be neutral, conferring no advantage or disadvantage to any political party. Election administrators across North Carolina are falling short of their statutory duty to ensure neutrality.


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