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The Party Line is dedicated to examining regional issues and policies through the figures who give shape to them. These are critical, complex, and even downright confusing times we live in. There’s a lot to navigate nationally and in the Carolinas; whether it’s elections, debates on gay marriage, public school closings, or tax incentives for economic development. The Party Line’s goal is to offer a provocative, intelligent look at the issues and players behind the action; a view that ultimately offers the necessary insight for Carolina voters to hold public servants more accountable.

As Charlotte Grows, GOP Precincts Get Some Blue

With the primary elections for the City of Charlotte concluded and the candidates for city offices selected, can any analysis be done in looking at the fall’s general election for the Queen City?

An analytical approach known as the “partisan voting index,” or PVI, can give us a sense of how each of the county’s 195 precincts politically “behave” in their voting patterns.

Developed by respected independent analyst Charlie Cook, the PVI takes two sets of presidential voting results and develops a sense of how much more, or less, an area votes in comparison to the performance of the party’s presidential candidate at the national level.

For example, if a presidential candidate received a national percentage of 48 percent, but in a precinct the candidate got 58 percent of the vote, we would consider that precinct’s voting behavior “strongly” for the candidate.

Taking two presidential elections to create an average (2004 and 2008, 2008 and 2012), one can look at each Mecklenburg precinct and classify each into a range: whenever a precinct is +10 or greater for one party or the other, it is a “likely” precinct for that party.

A range from +3 to 10 indicates a precinct that may “lean” to one party or the other, while a precinct with less than 2 percent deviation from the national performance would be one classified as a “toss-up” between either party.

In looking at the 2004 and 2008 combined PVIs for each precinct, Mecklenburg appears like the typical urban county. Within the city limits (the yellow lines show the city council districts), a strong Democratic presence (with the exception of south Charlotte and its GOP stronghold), while those areas outside of the Queen City’s limits strongly align as Republicans.

Within the yellow lines, the strong Democratic dominance is particularly highlighted in Charlotte, with the two southern districts held by Warren Cooksey and Andy Dulin as the city’s GOP strongholds.

In developing the PVIs using 2008 and 2012 results, a “creeping outwards” of Democratic voting patterns emerged from within Charlotte into the city’s GOP strongholds and into the neighboring suburban areas of the county. 

Between the two PVI calculations, 46 precincts moved more Democratic in nature, while only one precinct moved more Republican in its behavior. 

And the Democratic “creep” seems to be breaking into the southern Charlotte and Mecklenburg areas of GOP dominance. 

Granted, as some have noted, the likely turnout in this odd-year election is dismal in comparison to a presidential election. 

The 2011 general election garnered only 16 percent voter turnout when then-Mayor Anthony Foxx ran for re-election; in 2009, with a competitive open election contest, 21 percent of voters showed up for that general election.

But as the Democratic dominance continues to build and spread from the city limits and the fact that there are more unaffiliated registered voters than Republican registered voters, the GOP ticket will likely find their candidates on the losing end come November’s general election in the Queen City.    

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 Georgiaââ