Worth Williams and Clarence Jones had two of the loneliest jobs in North Carolina politics Tuesday.
They were candidate poll workers outside Beatties Ford Road library, passing out leaflets and cajoling the few early voters who passed by to support their candidate.
“It’s kind of unimpressive right now,” Williams, 61, said of turnout.
That could be an understatement.
The library is one of Mecklenburg County’s 17 early-voting sites open for next week’s primaries for Congress and the N.C. Supreme Court. If early results are any indication, turnout will be near record lows. Some predict as low as 5 percent.
Combine that with this year’s lack of runoffs and you have a recipe for surprises in an election that, thanks to gerrymandered districts, will essentially determine most of the state’s members of Congress.
“Every vote counts really in this one,” said Michael Dickerson, Mecklenburg’s elections director.
Some people are betting a lot on each of those votes.
Only Ohio has seen more outside spending on congressional races than North Carolina, according to the Federal Election Commission.
▪ Almost $1.6 million has gone into the 2nd District, where Republican Renee Ellmers faces fellow GOP Rep. George Holding and former Senate candidate Greg Brannon. Most of the money has come from groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth Action opposed to Ellmers.
▪ The Club for Growth Action also has invested in the new 13th District, which runs from Iredell County to Guilford. It’s spent nearly $500,000 for Davie County businessman Ted Budd, one of 17 Republicans vying for an open seat.
▪ Meanwhile The National Association of Realtors has spent $325,000 on behalf of another candidate in the 13th, state Rep. Julia Howard of Davie County.
In the heavily Democratic 12th District, incumbent Rep. Alma Adams spent $483,000 through May 18, more than six times as much as her nearest opponent.
All of that could translate into a lot of money per voter.
In the 12th, there are about 460,000 registered voters, including 352,000 eligible to vote in the Democratic primary. (Independents can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries.)
Turnout is never high for off-schedule primaries. When courts ordered a stand-alone congressional primary in 1998, turnout was about 8 percent. That was still higher than a 2008 June runoff in one statewide race. Turnout in that was less than 2 percent.
But some people march to the polls regardless.
On Tuesday, Anthony Lindsey voted early at the Beatties Ford Road library with his 19-year-old daughter, Simone, who was voting for the first time.
“Now that I’m of age, I know how important it is to perform my civic duty,” she said.
Early voting in Mecklenburg County will continue at 17 sites until Saturday.
Sixteen satellite sites will open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Central Piedmont Community College facilities service building at 1325 East 7th St. will open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.