Thursday, 25 October 2018 21:11

133 Richmond County Voters Switch Political Parties

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ROCKINGHAM — More than 100 Richmond County voters have switched party their party affiliation within the past two months, as more continue to shed partisan labels.

Statistics from the Richmond County Board of Elections show 133 registered voters changed parties from Sept. 1 to Oct. 15.

Democrats, who make up the majority of voters, lost 93 to other affiliations, but picked up 11. Two Democrats became Libertarians, 22 are now Republicans and 69 are now unaffiliated.

Republicans lost three to the Democratic Party and eight are no longer aligned with any party.

Libertarians had a net loss of one. Although they gained two Democrats, they lost one to the Democratic Party and two to the Republican Party.

Although 77 voters are now unaffiliated, 26 who were that way joined the dominant two parties: seven are now Democrats; 19 are now Republicans.

Out of the county’s 30,424 registered voters (as of Oct. 23), there are 16,299 Democrats, 6,025 Republicans and 78 Libertarians. The number of unaffiliated voters totals 8,022.

While there are five political parties recognized in North Carolina, records show there are no voters registered with the Green or Constitution parties, which both gained recognition earlier this year.

Unaffiliated voters make up the second-largest voting block in the state and Dr. Michael Bitzer, politics and history professor at Catawba College, said the trend is driven mostly by millennials and Generation Z.

Bitzer said those aged 18-37 don’t want to be labeled as belonging to a political party, “... they want the label of being independent.”

“But,” he added, “research shows they’re just as partisan.”

Citing findings from the Pew Research Center, Bitzer said studies show most younger unaffiliated voters skew to the left of the political spectrum while older voters tend to be more conservative.

According to Bitzer, millennials’ ideology tends to be a combination of social libertarianism, where they don’t care what others do as long they are left alone; and pragmatic liberalism, where, although they don’t believe the government can solve every problem, it can be used to address issues and concerns.

“For younger voters growing up in an age of intense partisanship and polarization … it’s not surprising they don’t want to be labeled” with any political party, Bitzer said.