Politics & Government

These people wanted to vote for Bishop or McCready but couldn’t. Then they got angry.

Only one-fifth of voters in Mecklenburg County are eligible to cast ballots in the high-profile 9th Congressional District special election. But plenty more wanted to — and local officials say they’ve been inundated with angry and confused phone calls all day Tuesday.

In one instance, an election official said, more than 100 people showed up to vote at a church in Cornelius and were surprised to find out they couldn’t cast ballots for either Dan Bishop, the Republican, or Dan McCready, the Democrat. When those voters found the polling place closed some of them assumed the Board of Elections had messed up. But then they learned the next opportunity for voting in Cornelius is Nov. 5 and there won’t be anyone on the ballot then running for Congress.

“Know before you go,” says Kristin Mavromatis, spokeswoman for the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. “There is some onus on the voter (for knowing their district).”

Mecklenburg County is one of eight counties entirely or partially included in the 9th District. It includes some parts of southeast Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to the state line.

Nearly 150,000 people in Mecklenburg County are registered and eligible to vote in the 9th District. But most of the more than 720,000 registered voters in the county live in the 12th Congressional District, which is not on the ballot this year.

The 9th District race, on the other hand, has been highly publicized, with outside political groups spending more than $10 million in the race and voters all over Mecklenburg County hearing TV and radio ads.

The problem? A good number of people exposed to the ads weren’t eligible to vote in the election.

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Two hours into voting on Tuesday, the town of Huntersville was forced to make a public service announcement on its Twitter page:

“We have had a number of calls this morning of folks wanting to vote in today’s election for the 9th Congressional District. The Town of Huntersville is in the 12th Congressional District,” the tweet said.

Mavromatis, whose phone numberappears on the homepage of the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections website, says she got too many complaints to count from voters who thought — or hoped — they could vote in the 9th District and were upset they could not.

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Anna Douglas is an investigative reporter for the Charlotte Observer. Previously, she worked as a local news reporter for The (Rock Hill) Herald and as a congressional correspondent in Washington, D.C., for McClatchy. Anna is a past recipient of the South Carolina Press Association’s Journalist of the Year award and the Charlotte Society of Professional Journalists’ Outstanding Journalism Award. She’s a South Carolina native, a graduate of Winthrop University, and a past fellow of the Dori Maynard Diversity Leadership Program, sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists. Anna has lived in Charlotte since May 2017.