Oct 27, 2020 - Election

How Charlotte voted in the past 7 presidential elections. Plus, 2020 turnout so far



Turnout by party: North Carolina voters are split evenly as registered Republicans, Democrats, or unaffiliated. Democrats make up the largest share with 35 percent of registered voters, unaffiliated next with 33 percent, and Republicans have about 30 percent. Here’s how each party has turned out as of October 26.Young voters: North Carolina has seen a huge spike in mail-in and early votes cast by young voters ages 18 to 29. According to Tufts University, nearly 205,000 votes were cast by young voters as of October 21, compared to just over 25,000 in 2016.

Election Day is one week away, and so far, turnout is high. We’re about a week ahead of the state’s count in 2016.

As of Monday morning, 3.17 million people have cast votes in North Carolina either through the mail or in person. That number eclipses the 3.10 million who voted early in all of 2016. The state is on track to surpass the total votes cast in 2016 before we even reach Election Day, assuming an average of 240,000 voters continue casting ballots per day.

What any of that means, though, is up for debate.

Turnout is high in part because of the high rate of mail-in voting this election due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[Related Agenda guide: Find the Mecklenburg County early voting site that’s most convenient for you]

But what matters most to each campaign is who’s voting and where votes are being cast. In order to win the presidency, Democrats are looking for high-turnout among Black voters in Charlotte neighborhoods such as Washington Heights. Republicans are looking to keep their foothold in suburban areas like Mint Hill.

In the past 13 presidential elections — dating back to the 1968 Nixon victory — North Carolina has gone Republican 11 times. The only two Democrats to take the state were Barack Obama in 2008 and Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Mecklenburg County, though, has been veering more and more blue for the past 20 or so years.

The raw numbers are staggering in many ways. For a glimpse of just how much has changed in just Charlotte over the past two decades, consider this stat: The last time Mecklenburg County favored a Republican presidential candidate was George W. Bush in 2000. That year, 262,000-plus people cast ballots in Mecklenburg; already in 2020, more than 350,000 people have voted here.

Here’s a look at how Mecklenburg County has voted in the past seven elections — and a peek at how we’re looking in 2020.

How Mecklenburg County voted:

2016 – TRUMP (R) v. CLINTON (D)

Voter breakdown: In 2016, Mecklenburg County went for Hillary Clinton with 62.29 percent of votes. President Trump received 32.89 percent of votes here but went on to win the state.

2016 general election
Red patches of Trump voters are mostly on the southeastern and northern edges of the county. Blue precincts, which swung for Clinton, make up almost everywhere else. (2016 map via Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. All precinct maps)

Closest races: The two tightest precincts in the county in 2016 were in the south Charlotte country club neighborhoods of Carmel and Raintree. After the first 11 days of early voting this year, Carmel Commons Shopping Center was the second most-popular voting site, and it’s located near both neighborhoods.

  • Precinct 101, the south Charlotte neighborhood of Carmel, came down to eight votes. Trump won.
  • Precinct 90, the south Charlotte neighborhood of Raintree, came down to just three votes. Clinton won.

[Related Agenda story: Will the Charlotte suburbs send President Trump to a second term?]

Biggest wins: Trump received a larger portion of votes (up to 65 percent) in precincts on the edge of Mecklenburg. Clinton won big closer to center city, especially in west Charlotte.

  • In precinct 242, a peninsula on Lake Norman in Cornelius, 65.51 percent voted for Trump, compared to Clinton at 30.17 percent. Cornelius Town Hall, the closest polling place to precinct 242, is the most popular site in the county so far this year.
  • Precinct 25, the west Charlotte neighborhoods of University Park and Washington Heights around West Charlotte High School, only gave Trump 27 votes, the lowest of any precinct in 2016. More than 96 percent of voters in the predominantly Black neighborhood voted for Clinton. West Charlotte High School, an early voting site, is one of the least popular in the county so far this time around.

[Related Agenda story: Democrats can’t win without the Black vote. Here’s what that means in Charlotte]

Write-in votes: A write-in vote is, for some, a middle finger to America’s two-party system.

Mecklenburg County had an astounding number of write-in votes in 2016 with 7,289 write-in votes cast in-person, including over 1,300 for Jill Stein. That’s about seven times the amount we had in both 2012 (1,050) and 2008 (1,103).

Sometimes called “protest votes,” write-in votes skyrocketed in many states around the country in 2016, enough that it could have swung the election.

2012 – OBAMA (D) v. ROMNEY (R)

Voter breakdown: In 2012, Mecklenburg went for President Barack Obama with 60.65 percent of votes. Mitt Romney received 38.24 percent of votes in the county. Romney won the state overall, but Obama won re-election.

2008 – OBAMA (D) v. MCCAIN (R)

Voter breakdown: In 2008, Mecklenburg went for Obama with 61.82 percent of votes, two percentage points less than 2012. He went on to win the state by a narrow margin, 49.7 to 49.38 percent, over John McCain, making Obama the only Democrat to take North Carolina since 1976.

2004 – BUSH (R) v. KERRY (D)

Voter breakdown: In 2004, Mecklenburg went for John Kerry by a hair with 52 percent of votes. President George W. Bush received 48 percent of votes.

On the first year of the Elizabeth neighborhood’s pumpkin display, they spelled out Kerry in lights to support the Democratic nominee. Kerry won Mecklenburg County, but lost the state and the general election.

2000 – BUSH (R) v. GORE (D)

Voter breakdown: The notorious 2000 election (hey, Florida) marked the last time a Republican presidential candidate carried Mecklenburg County. George W. Bush won here with 51 percent of the vote, while Al Gore had 48 percent.

1996 – CLINTON (D) v. DOLE (R)

Voter breakdown: Bill Clinton carried the county over Bob Dole, 49-46, in a year when third-party candidate Ross Perot pulled in about 5 percent of the vote here. Dole won the state, but lost nationally as Clinton went on to a second term.

1992 – BUSH (R) v. CLINTON (D)

Voter breakdown: George H.W. Bush won Mecklenburg by a percentage point, won North Carolina by less than a percentage point, but lost the overall election to Clinton nationally. He was the last incumbent to fall in his re-election bid.

How Charlotte and North Carolina are voting in 2020 so far:

Turnout is high this year, in large part, because of mail-in voting — but that may not be the only explanation. In-person early voting numbers suggest there’s more enthusiasm, especially with young voters, this year. Keep in mind, there are also more polling places open for early voting in 2020 than previous elections.

Daily counts of voters in North Carolina are beginning to level out with numbers from 2016, so we’ll see if the trends of the final week resemble those of last week.

  • Democrats – 49 percent of all registered Democrats in North Carolina have already voted. That’s a higher proportion than registered North Carolinians overall.
  • Republicans – 43 percent of all registered Republicans in N.C. have already voted. That’s about even with the state overall.
  • Unaffiliated – 38 percent of all registered unaffiliated voters in N.C. have already voted.

Of course this doesn’t mean a registered Democrat or Republican is always going to vote with his or her party.

Turnout by location: Within the first 11 days of early voting, sites in Cornelius, University, and south Charlotte have emerged as the busiest. Some sites in west Charlotte have been slower, while others like the Allegra Westbrooks/Beatties Ford Library saw hours-long waits on the first day of early voting. The Spectrum Center in the center of Uptown has also been noticeably slow. I chalk that up to parking (but FYI, they validate).

If you geek out over numbers like me, WSOC’s Joe Bruno tweets out a top five and a bottom five polling places every day. The Civitas Institute has the top 25 precinct list here.

[Related Agenda story: What it was like to vote in North Carolina on the first day of this monumental election]

James McCoy, his daughter Doris and wife Mary, Election Day 2020
James McCoy, his daughter Doris, and wife Mary on the first day of early voting at Allegra Westbrooks/Beatties Ford Library.

The Agenda’s Election 2020 guide: What to expect from the nearly 40 contests on Mecklenburg’s ballots


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