When I returned home to North Carolina from the nation’s capital in 1989 and subsequently registered to vote, I opted not to join a political party. Although my conservative views were already well-established — and publicly on display in the syndicated newspaper column I’d created three years earlier — I considered it inappropriate for a journalist to join a partisan team. I was, and remain, unaffiliated.

At the time, North Carolina was an overwhelmingly Democratic state. Since then, the share of voters registering as Democrats has fallen precipitously. The Republican share rose for a while, then leveled off. The ranks of independent voters have, by contrast, kept growing rapidly. As of early March, about 36 percent of the state’s 7.2 million voters are unaffiliated, with 33 percent registered as Democrats, 30 percent as Republicans, and the rest as Libertarians or Greens.

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