Early Registration of Young Voters

Analysis of the NCSBE voter registration files shows that there was a remarkable high number of registrations dated 2020-01-03. This is due to an administrative action to accomodate North Carolina's preregistration for young people who are 16 or 17 years old. According to the NCSBE, “To register to vote in North Carolina, eligible voters must be at least 18 years old, but 16- and 17-year-olds may preregister to vote. This means that once you become eligible by age to vote, your voter registration application will then be processed. Until you are registered, you will not be eligible to vote.”. In this report I will look into several aspects of this action. My broader purpose is to evaluate the effectiveness of actions to register young voters. This report will concentrate on the 2020-01-03 registrants.

I will be using the ncvoter data only for Active voters. I include records only for those registered as Democrat, Republican, or Unassigned, unless otherwise noted. This report uses the NCSBE ncvoter file datestamped October 17, 2020.

What Were the Ages of the 2020-01-03 Registrants?

The registrants on 2020-01-03 include the delayed bolus of high school students, as well as people who just happen to register that day. Their ages at the end of 2020 are shown below. The high school students were primarily 18, with a small number being 19 years old.

Age 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54
N 593 49641 120 50 69 38 47 52 48 65 50 48 40 35 28 45 32 46 31 32 20 30 30 16 25 18 30 28 16 12 23 23 27 22 22 23 22 17
Age 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 90 91 92 93 94 96
N 25 15 19 22 16 21 13 20 27 19 19 14 18 23 14 9 9 9 18 2 7 1 4 1 8 1 2 1 4 4 2 6 1 2 1 2 1 1 1

A Quick View of Young Registrants Since 2016

The following bar chart summarizes the number of 18 and 19 year old registrants since 2017. This, and all that follows, includes only Democrats, Republicans, and Unassigned (Independents). The numbers for other political parties are included in the Overview report, and total 524 for the 18 and 19 year old early registrants.

18 & 19 Year Old Early Regisrants
2016* 2017* 2018 2019 2020
Early: 50,354
99,516 85,282 96,953 75,027 53,204

*2016 and 2017 are underestimates since I do not at this time have complete data for those years.


What are the Characteristics of the Early-Registrants?

These 50,354 18 and 19 year old registrants can be characterized in the following ways.

18 & 19 Year Old Early Regisrants
Party Gender Race Ethnicity
category N pct
DEM 12,930 25.7
REP 12,982 25.8
UNA 24,442 48.5
category N pct
F 23,991 47.6
M 23,397 46.5
U 2,966 5.9
category N pct
A 1,178 2.3
B 9,449 18.8
I 198 0.4
M 420 0.8
O 2,832 5.6
P 3 0.0
U 5,642 11.2
W 30,632 60.8
category N pct
HL 3,854 7.7
NL 33,361 66.3
UN 13,139 26.1

Where Were the Early Registrants Located?

First, I will present the locations of these young registrants, using their residential address as entered in their registration forms and recorded in the NCSBE ncvoter file. They may also have a mailing address, which I will consider further below.

The following plot shows the North Carolina zip codes for which there were 18 and 19 year old registrants. The plot uses ZCTAs, the Zip Code Tabulation Areas created by the Census Bureau to bring some stability and geographic cohesion to the Post Office Zip Codes. ZCTAs are described by the Census Bureau and in Wikipedia. I use them here since there are fewer ZCTAs than Zip Codes, improving the readability of this map.

The plot shows what is no surpise: counties with higher populations register more young people than do counties with lower populations. However, it appears that Union County, wealthy and predominantly (about 80%) White, located adjacent to Mecklenburg County, is somewhat of an exception to that relationship. Some approximate comparative figures for Union and Mecklenburg counties as of 2018 from the Census Bureau Quick Facts are shown below. Briefly, the proportion of the young population that registered early in Union County was nearly one and a half times that in Mecklenburg County.

16 to 19 is percentage of county population between 16 and 19 years old
18 to 19 is percentage of county population between 18 and 19 years old
MHI is Median Household Income
pct Total is number of 2020-01-03 registrations as a percentage of total population
pct 16-19 is number of 2020-01-03 registrations as a percentage of 16 to 19 year old population
pct 18-19 is number of 2020-01-03 registrations as a percentage of 18 to 19 year old population

Mecklenburg & Union County 2002-01-03 Registrations Quick Facts
Population 16 to 19 18 to 19 MHI Registrations pct Total pct 16-19 pct 18-19
Mecklenburg 1,108,100 4.9% 2.5% $64,500 6,172 0.56% 11% 22%
Union 237,300 6.9% 3.3% $80,400 2,333 0.98% 14% 30%