Republican vs. Unaffiliated Registration
A few weeks ago, one of our activists asked me, “Why should someone register as a Republican as opposed to an Unaffiliated voter, especially in Durham?” This is a great question and one that every conservative in Durham should know the answer to, both for their own edification and that of their friends and neighbors.
As of the 1st of July, 2012, there are 195,050 registered voters in Durham County. Of that number, 116,182 are registered with the Democratic Party. Unaffiliated voters make up 49,354 and Republican voters make up 29,102. If this is the first time you are seeing these numbers, read them over again and let them sink in.
In Durham County, there are two types of Unaffiliated voters. Some consider themselves truly “independent” voters, not sympathetic to either political party. The other Durham Unaffiliated voters are Republicans at heart, but they “want to vote in the local primaries, because there are never any Republicans running.” Folks, this has turned into a self-fulfilling prophesy.
When I took office in March of 2011, I knew that 2012 would afford Durham residents an opportunity to vote for new County Commissioners. So while my team and I began our work, finding qualified Republicans willing to run in 2012 was at the forefront of my mind. As we approached the November elections, I talked with 7-9 individuals who would have been very qualified candidates. While all of them were interested in running at some point, none of them were willing to run in 2012. Every single one of them cited the same rationale: the organization just isn’t strong enough yet and the registrations are very badly skewed.
Building a strong and sustainable organization has been my goal from the outset. We have made tremendous strides and I believe we will successfully harness the adrenaline (and additional volunteers) from the Presidential race to build this into a formidable organization.
However, changing the registration numbers is a far larger task.
Obviously, we need to conduct voter registration drives. We have folks working on this, but quite frankly, we need more help in this area.
However, conducting voter registration drives isn’t going to move the needle much. In order to really impact the voter registration numbers in Durham, we need to help our neighbors understand why it is so important to join the Republican Party.
Let me be the first to say that I do not agree with everything the Republican Party does. I do not agree with every position of every candidate. But that’s part of the point of getting involved. You can’t influence the Party if you’re not a part of the Party. Let me give you an example.
In June of every year, the North Carolina Republican Party holds their annual convention. As you might imagine, this year’s attendance was relatively high given the high interest in the North Carolina’s Gubernatorial Race as well as the Presidential race. But were you there?
One of the Convention’s tasks – this occurs at local, state and national Conventions – is an official vote on the Party’s Platform. In other words, the Republicans who attend the North Carolina Republican Party Convention decide the public stances that the North Carolina Republican Party will take. At this year’s convention, there were an awful lot of Republicans from the Libertarian Caucus. (In case you don’t know what that means, the Republican Libertarian Caucus (RLC) are folks who are philosophically libertarians but realize that the most effective vehicle for advancing their objectives is the Republican – not Libertarian – Party.) As a result, they strongly influenced the debate, and some of the issues that the RLC wanted to see adopted almost became part of the official party platform.
So, if you didn’t attend the NCGOP Convention in June and you feel strongly about some of these issues – regardless of the side of the debate on which you sit – you should know that your attendance could have made a huge difference. Two of these issues include Foreign Policy (Iran) and the definition of Marriage. So if these issues are important to you, you have to show up. However, you can only show up if you are a registered Republican. You can’t influence the Party if you are not a member of the Party.
Most people (Republicans, that is) think they have two votes, one for the Primaries and one for the General Election. In reality, you have a lot more votes than that. You have a vote at the County Convention, held every March. You have a vote at the District Conventions, held every April. You have a vote at the State Conventions, held every June. And you also could have a vote at every single Durham Republican Party Executive Committee meeting. You can’t influence the Party if you are not a member of the Party.
But let’s get back to Durham. Why does it matter whether or not you or your conservative neighbors register with the Republican Party?
Simply put, if we can’t convince Unaffiliated Voters to get off the fence and join the Republican Party, then the conversations I’m going to be having this fall with potential City Council and Mayoral candidates is going to be eerily similar to the conversations I had last fall with the County Commissioner candidates. When an individual starts to think about running for office, one of the first things they start doing is research. They are going to research the voter registration numbers in the district in which they are registered. If the numbers in Durham are as skewed as they are today, most qualified candidates will pass on running and instead remain on the sidelines.
So when someone tells you that they are registered as an “Unaffiliated” voter because there are never any Republicans running in Durham, I beg you, please explain to them why this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Post Script – I’d be remiss if I didn’t post a link to where you can find instructions on how to update your voter registration. You can find that information here, or just stop by the Durham GOP Head-Quarters and ask for a Voter Registration form.