Michael Bitzer

Political Columnist

Dr. Michael Bitzer is an associate professor of politics and history at Catawba College, where he also serves as the 2011-2012 Swink Professor for Excellence in Classroom Teaching and the chair of the department of history & politics.  A native South Carolinian, he holds graduate degrees in both history and political science from Clemson University and The University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. Dr. Bitzer’s studies have focused on Southern politics, campaigns and elections, and a variety of topics in American politics.

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer / WFAE

In what may be a landmark decision, a federal panel of judges has ruled all of North Carolina's congressional districts are illegal partisan gerrymanders.

They've banned the map from being used in this year's election and ordered the General Assembly to draw new districts by 5pm on January 24th.

Lawmakers are expected to appeal the ruling.

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer / WFAE

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Wisconsin redistricting case and consider whether partisan gerrymandering is constitutional.

In the past, the courts have deferred on answering whether partisan gerrymandering is constitutional or not for the simple fact that it inserts the judiciary into a “political question.”

Scholars and analysts have much to research about the 2016 election, but some early analysis is confirming what we have seen for some time among the electorate, particularly in two key areas.

For most of us who study North Carolina politics, 2008’s election was the great demarcation in terms of the state being a “strong Republican” presidential state (George W. Bush won by 13 percentage points) to a competitive battleground. 2008’s election saw a notable difference from 2004’s election in that registered Democrats matched registered Republicans in their turnout.

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer / WFAE

Once upon a time, a political party was faced with the loss of a branch of government to its political nemesis. It came following a rancorous and bitter election, which saw the sitting incumbent defeated in his bid for re-election. Before the opposition was sworn in, however, the lame-duck party in power decided to use the rules of the game of politics, and its majority status, to ensure its presence within the structure of government, all to the dismay and abhorrence of the incoming opposition party.

Now that the dust has finally settled on North Carolina’s elections, some preliminary analyses can be conducted on the voting patterns in the state, which experienced a 2-to-1 split in the big three statewide contests between the two parties.

With Republicans claiming the U.S. presidential and U.S. senate contests, and the Democrats claiming the governor’s, it would appear that the era of split ticket voters has returned to the state.

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer / WFAE

As we enter the homestretch of the 2016 election, much attention will turn from the horse race (i.e., the polls) to the turnout race. Much will be made about what kind of electorate will show up, based on racial dynamics, age, gender, and, from what seems like a major fault line for 2016, education.

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer / WFAE

A recent Charlotte Talks show discussed how polarization has increased in our politics, based on a recent Pew Research Center study of partisan animosity between voters, with one of the guests contending that Americans are ‘sorting’ themselves based on lifestyle and location, with an effect of living in ‘like-minded’ communities and voting in like-minded fashion.

With Donald Trump’s newest attempt to ‘reboot’ his presidential campaign, speculation abounds as to whether this latest campaign shake-up, along with the candidate’s mea culpa in Charlotte, will have any profound impact on his poll numbers in the race towards November.

Most modern campaigns are, structured around core components: A candidate who has a compelling message, a campaign infrastructure that is focused, flexible, and deep, and an environment that is understood and worked within, not around.

The state Fraternal Order of Police is still upset that the office of Attorney General Roy Cooper prosecuted former CMPD officer Randall Kerrick last summer in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell. FOP members walked out on Cooper, the Democratic candidate for governor, as he was speaking at the group's annual conference. The group also endorsed incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory.

WFAE political analyst Michael Bitzer of Catawba College discusses the FOP's actions, early voting hours, and voter registration demographics in this week's election roundup.

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer / WFAE

On the day that the state of North Carolina asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision regarding the state's voting law changes, especially voter identification and early voting, Mecklenburg County’s Board of Elections, on a 2-1 partisan vote, voted to cut 238 hours from early voting.

Much has been made about the role that white voters will play in this year’s election, especially those without a college education who are seen as the backbone of Donald Trump's support.

With the continuing division of the electorate based on a number of factors (partisanship, gender, age, race, and ethnicity), it is not surprising that the continued coalition-building by both parties are honing in on discrete groups that have traditionally been core groups.

Much has been made about the favorability, or more notably, the lack thereof, of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Along with all of the other aspects that the 2016 presidential election has "rewritten" in terms of how we normally expect campaigns to play out, this year’s election is shaping up as one of "who do the voters detest the least?"

Modern-day nominating conventions have become nothing more than ‘infomercials’ for both political parties, and this year's Democratic and Republican national party conventions were indeed that. However, both presented stark contrasts in terms of the product they were selling to the American electorate for purchase this coming November.  

As is tradition, the party out of power of the White House went first, and the one word that seems to sum up the Republican’s nomination of Donald J. Trump was anger.

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer / WFAE

Heading into the general election, I'm analyzing the voter registration pool for North Carolina at the beginning of each month, watching for key trends and development of certain voting groups.

With any general election, there are two aspects that most political analysts will start to evaluate: the composition of the possible electorate (‘who shows up’) and the behavior of that possible electorate (‘how do different groups vote?’).

Granted, North Carolina’s potential electorate can expand between now and November, but an early breakdown of the voter registration pool can give some hint of who is eligible to cast their ballots in the fall.

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer / WFAE

With Republican voters solidified behind their presumptive nominee, Donald Trump has turned his focus to the general election.

Now that both Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s Chairman, Reince Priebus, have declared Trump as the presumptive presidential nominee, the attention turns to the general campaign and the November election.

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer / WFAE

With the decision by federal judge Thomas Schroeder upholding the North Carolina’s election law overhaul that Republicans approved in 2013, the 485-page opinion is a massive analysis of the legislative intent and, at times, a stark dismissal of opponent’s criticisms.

The ruling can only be viewed as a solid win for the Republicans when they were desperate for any news of a victory for their party’s policies in the state.

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer / WFAE

In 1992, the voters of Colorado passed a state constitution amendment in response to several local governments, including Denver, Aspen, and Boulder, that had enacted local laws to ban discrimination

based on sexual orientation. In the constitutional amendment (known as Amendment 2), these local ordinances were repealed and local governments could not prohibit discrimination on the basis of “homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices, or relationships.”

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