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Almost 6,000 Voters Leave NC Republican Party After Capitol Riot

This article is made possible through a partnership between WFAE and Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. This article is available for reprint under the terms of our republishing policy.

Three weeks after the riot at the U.S. Capitol, voting data from North Carolina showed nearly 6,000 voters in the state changed their registration from Republican to another party.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections numbers revealed between Jan. 7, the day after the riot, and Jan. 22, the North Carolina Republican Party lost a net of 5,855 voters, with most of them registering as unaffiliated, according to the News & Observer. The changes follow a similar pattern in other states, including Pennsylvania and Arizona.

Catawba College politics professor Michael Bitzer said voters may be sending a signal to the state and national Republican party.

"Republicans tend to be the most solidly loyal to the party, and the past couple of weeks may have tested that party loyalty," Bitzer said. "Even though they may still be Republican voters, ultimately, perhaps they’re looking for that safe haven of, ‘I’m unaffiliated, so I can’t get pegged one way or the other.’"

Bitzer said these voters’ race and gender is not yet known. Most of these Republican-to-unaffiliated voters live in six of the state’s most urban counties, including Mecklenburg, Wake, and Orange counties. Those six counties only account for about a quarter of the state’s GOP voters. Bitzer said the next election will show if the registration changes also indicate a meaningful change in voter behavior.

"Party labels, party registration can send signals. But I think ultimately it’s about the votes being cast," Bitzer said.

There were 561 registered Republicans who changed affiliation to the Democratic party, while 347 voters went to third parties.

In the same time period, 210 Democrats left the party.

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Michael Falero is a radio reporter, currently covering voting and the 2020 election. He previously covered environment and energy for WFAE. Before joining WFAE in 2019, Michael worked as a producer for a number of local news podcasts based in Charlotte and Boston. He's a graduate of the Transom Story Workshop intensive on Cape Cod and UNC Chapel Hill.