State Politics

Few voters bothered to choose candidates

Two Durham NC voters at center move toward the voting booths after getting their ballots during primary day voting Tuesday mid-morning, June 7, 2016 at the Pearsontown Elementary School precinct in southeastern Durham, NC. Pearsontown precinct Chief Judge Michael Williams said that 50 voters had cast ballots by 10 a.m. Tuesday out of a total over about 3,000 registered voters there. This was not taking into account the absentee and early voters who had already cast ballots.
Two Durham NC voters at center move toward the voting booths after getting their ballots during primary day voting Tuesday mid-morning, June 7, 2016 at the Pearsontown Elementary School precinct in southeastern Durham, NC. Pearsontown precinct Chief Judge Michael Williams said that 50 voters had cast ballots by 10 a.m. Tuesday out of a total over about 3,000 registered voters there. This was not taking into account the absentee and early voters who had already cast ballots. hlynch@newsobserver.com

Fewer than 8 percent of North Carolina voters cast a ballot in Tuesday’s primary election.

Few other North Carolina elections in recent years have had such low participation.

In 2008, a second primary election earned an even lower turnout of 1.8 percent. There was a single statewide race, a runoff in the Democratic primary for labor commissioner. There were also two seats in the state legislature on the ballot.

A second primary in 2012 included several statewide races, and drew 3.6 percent participation.

While Tuesday’s election had just one statewide election – for a seat on the Supreme Court – it also had at least one primary in nearly every U.S. House district across the state. This election, unlike some second primaries, wasn’t a runoff. It was required because of court-ordered changes to congressional districts.

In many districts, the small number of voters likely decided who will serve in Congress, since the districts are typically drawn to favor one political party, and primaries are therefore more contentious than general elections.

The 2014 primary, when the same congressional seats last had primaries, saw more than double Tuesday’s 7.8 percent turnout.

The first primary this year, in March, had about 36 percent turnout.

Even past elections without a single federal or statewide candidate have received more attention from voters than Tuesday’s primary. In 2009 and 2013, the only races on the ballot were for local government offices – city commissioners, school boards and the like. Communities had their elections on different dates, but combined, the 2009 primaries had 8.9 percent turnout, and the 2013 primaries had 10 percent turnout.

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