- Seven North Carolina counties supported all of the proposed constitutional amendments, while eight counties voted against all six.
- North Carolina voters have nuanced policy preferences, regardless of political loyalties.
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to a student reporter at the Daily Tar Heel, Ares Zerunyan, for an article on the election results of the proposed state constitutional amendments. I appreciate Mr. Zerunyan reaching out to me, as he asked an interesting question about the county breakdown of the election results. After studying the results, I had a few more thoughts based on our conversation.
North Carolina voters approved four amendments to the state constitution and rejected two amendment proposals. The statewide election results by percentage were as follows:
- Right to Hunt and Fish – PASS
- For – 57.13%
- Against 42.87
- Strengthening Victim’s Rights/Mary’s Law – PASS
- For – 62.13%
- Against – 37.87%
- Maximum Income Tax Rate of 7% – PASS
- For – 57.35%
- Against – 42.65%
- Require Photo ID to Vote – PASS
- For – 55.48%
- Against – 44.52%
- Nonpartisan Judicial Merit Commission – FAIL
- For – 33.15%
- Against – 66.85%
- Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections – FAIL
- For – 38.40%
- Against – 61.60%
The amendment outcomes were decided based on statewide vote totals. However, county results provide insights about differences in policy preferences of voters across the state. I also compared the results to voter party registration results from each county. Here’s what I found:
Opposed All Six. Eight counties voted against all six amendments: Orange, Durham, Wake, Chatham, Buncombe, Warren, Halifax, and Northampton. Democrats lead in voter registration in each of these counties, and constitute over 50 percent of voters in four of the eight counties.
High Democrat Party registration however, did not translate to opposition to the amendments across the state. For example, Hertford County has the highest percent of Democrat registration, at 72 percent, but voters approved three of the amendments – the Right to Hunt and Fish, Crime Victim’s Rights, and the Income Tax Cap.
Geographically, the opposing counties make up the Triangle, a cluster in Northeast North Carolina, and Asheville. This hints at the growing rural-urban divide in the state. This trend is more evidenced in the results of the most conservative proposed amendments. Eight additional counties voted against the voter ID amendment, for a total of 16 counties opposing that amendment. Of the amendments that passed, voter ID had the lowest margin, in large part due to opposition to the amendment in the urban parts of the state.
Supported All Six. Seven counties voted in favor of all six amendments: Camden, Cherokee, Clay, Currituck, Gates, Perquimans, and Rutherford.The supporting counties are all rural, with six of the seven being at the far geographic extremes of the state.
The affirmative counties are more diverse than the dissenting counties in terms of voter registration. Three of the counties have a Republican plurality of voters, two have unaffiliated voters as the largest voting bloc, and two have Democratic leads in registration.
What can we learn from these results? It is possible that the failure of the amendments in eight counties with Democrat Party pluralities may speak to the success of the Democratic Party’s marketing campaign against the amendments in those areas. Many progressives are frustrated with Republican control at the state and federal level. The failure of the amendments may reflect the success of Democrats in tying the amendments to their rival party.
This observation, though plausible, is somewhat contradicted by results in other parts of the state, where the amendments did not pass or fail as a collective regardless of party registration. Instead, many voters split their tickets, voting for some amendments while rejecting others. This reveals a failure on the part of both major political parties to group all the amendments together one way or another.
It is also a testament to the voters of North Carolina, who are clearly nuanced and thoughtful in their policy preferences. Our system of two dominant political parties and media obsession over conflicts suggests that the world is black-and-white. Reality has many shades of gray.
The failure of two amendments may reflect the continuing influence of the state’s previous governors, Republican and Democratic, all of whom participated in a campaign against those two amendments. This bi-partisan coalition resonated with voters. This success may have been compounded by the media-cultivated but sometimes deserved image of the current General Assembly as being prone to political games and power grabs. The failed amendments seemed to reinforce that image, because they reduced the Governor’s constitutional responsibilities, and voters resoundingly rejected them.
In today’s hyper-partisan climate, it would be easy to subscribe to blind tribalism. North Carolinians refused to do so in regard to the constitutional amendments. They indicated their support for conservative policies, such as limits on taxation and reinforcement of election security through voter ID, while simultaneously indicating that they did not want to transfer more power to the General Assembly.
The amendment results should send a strong message to all lawmakers. Regardless of political party, North Carolinians want a preservation of the state’s culture, a commitment to responsible fiscal and elections policy, and a rejection of a partisan, power-seeking approach to governing.
For more information about 2018 election results, see the North Carolina State Board of Elections results page here. To explore voter registration by county, check out Carolina Elections, a project of