NC voters show up in droves, confident that their vote matters

Heavy turnout reflects recently competitive state during elections

mlocke@newsobserver.comNovember 7, 2012 

— A single, sobering reality weighed on North Carolina voters who hit the polls Tuesday: Their vote counted.

State voters learned that lesson in 2008. A seemingly small block of votes – a mere 14,000 – helped change the nation’s course with the election of Barack Obama as president and interrupted the state’s tradition of backing Republicans for the White House.

Turnout was expected to hit nearly 70 percent. Estimates were that nearly two million of those would vote on election day, a ritual that included traditionalists as well as procrastinators. Many polling stations funneled long lines of voters through an early morning rush, though by mid-morning and through the afternoon, the flow had slowed to a trickle.

Election day was a final exam for thousands of campaign officials and volunteers. Voter turnout is a test of months of preparation. Party staff and volunteers have tried to sway independents, calling and knocking on the doors of their base and offering free rides to polling stations.

Most voters marched into their polling station with a plan, ignoring party volunteers trying to hand them partisan voting guides.

Some voters expressed patience for Obama to bring the changes they seek. That tone was even prevalent among voters most battered during the economic downturn.

In the last four years, Jessica Coates, 32, went from a good job using her political science degree from Meredith College to being an unemployed single mother reliant on government aid. On Tuesday, she cast another vote for Obama and refused to assign him any blame for her job instability.

“I know who drove us into this ditch, and it wasn’t President Obama,” Coates said. “He deserves four more years to push through his agenda. I now know how much need there is in this country. I feel it.”

Others, such as Jim J. Nemeth, 65, of Raleigh, couldn’t be convinced that Romney would be better than Obama. He did, however, stray from some of his Democratic alliances this year. Just in the past few weeks, Nemeth said he took note of how Pat McCrory, the Republican nominee for governor, toned down his advertisements.

“He was more ‘Here’s my message’ and not being all ‘Here’s what wrong with this other guy,’ ” Nemeth said.

‘In the hands of God’

Voters’ attitudes and choices on Tuesday ran the spectrum. Some were so apathetic they left many races blank. Others showed up out of duty rather than inspiration, not daring to believe their choices would do much to make their lives better. Some had considered staying home but decided at the last minute to weigh in.Daylon Perry of Southeast Raleigh is a registered Republican who cast all his votes for his party’s candidates. Still, he felt pretty down about the future, even if there is a change in leadership.

“This country’s going down one way or another,” said Perry, 74. “It’s all in the hands of God now.”

Efforts turned in recent weeks to drawing known supporters to the polls rather than courting the undecided. Voters Tuesday said the persistent efforts by campaigns to get them to show up had little effect, except annoyance.

“If I could have shot some of those robo callers, I would have,” said Marshall Green, a registered Democrat who voted Tuesday morning at Trinity United Methodist Church in Oakwood.

One voter, Craven Bridger, said he could have actually been swayed if campaign volunteers had reached out to him. A registered Democrat who owns a construction business and considers himself more in line with Republicans, Bridger said no one called him to lobby for a candidate.

Bridger said he had voted for Obama in the last election, but after four years of limping along in the construction business, he decided to give Romney a try.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t love the guy,” said Bridger, 35, of Raleigh. “But, he’s run a business, so maybe he can run our country.” Staff writers Burgetta Wheeler, Austin Baird and Aliana Ramos contributed.

Locke: 919-829-8927

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