GUILFORD COUNTY — About 1 million people of color did not vote in North Carolina’s 2020 elections despite being eligible, and a new group focused on reducing that number and helping Democratic candidates win has Guilford County among its main targets.
The New North Carolina Project launched this week, hoping to replicate the success of Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Democrats in other states in expanding the electorate through community outreach and organizing.
For the 2020 election, according to the State Board of Elections, there were more than 1.9 million registered voters in North Carolina who identified as Asian, American Indian or Native Alaskan, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, other or two more races. More than 1.5 million were Black or African American. About 67% of those voters turned out in the 2020 election, casting nearly 1.3 million ballots in the state.
By contrast, there were more than 4.7 million white voters registered in North Carolina, and 79% of them cast ballots in 2020, accounting for almost 3.7 million votes.
But that was a presidential election — and one that saw 75% turnout, the highest since at least 1972. Turnout in the 2018 midterms was the highest in a midterm election since 1990 but still less than 53%.
The new group’s goal is to register and mobilize more than 100,000 eligible voters and increase voter turnout in the 2022 midterms. It is targeting the northeast, southeast and Sandhills regions of the state as well as some other pockets throughout the state, including in Guilford County.
Aimy Steele, a former Spanish teacher and school principal from Concord, is the group’s executive director. Like Abrams, Steele is a Black woman who lost a close election. In Steele’s case, she lost two state House elections in Cabarrus County, in 2018 and 2020, each by less than 3,000 votes.
“That experience taught me tons. You can’t just go into a community — white, Black — and expect people to want to show up to vote just because it’s time for an election,” Steele said. “It taught me the necessity of standing up a field operation. Having a constituency-based service entity as part of the campaign was essential.”
The New North Carolina Project’s outreach includes door-to-door canvassing, phone and text banking, in-person events and partnerships with other groups already on the ground, said state Sen. Sydney Batch, D-Wake.
“Our special sauce is meeting and talking to voters at their door, meeting them where they are. We did not do that in 2020, and the Republicans figured that out,” she said during the virtual launch event.