Elections

Mecklenburg voters surge to polls in strong primary election turnout

Young Charlotte voter supports Bernie Sanders

Voting is underway at precincts across Charlotte and the rest of the state in Tuesday’s Democratic and Republican primaries.
Up Next
Voting is underway at precincts across Charlotte and the rest of the state in Tuesday’s Democratic and Republican primaries.

Primary voters streamed to Mecklenburg County polls in moderately heavy numbers Tuesday, when a new voter ID law was also first used.

About 32 percent of registered voters cast ballots, above the 2012 presidential primary but well below the 34 percent of 2008. At 10:30 p.m., voters were still casting ballots at a University area precinct, according to the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections.

While state and local elections officials said they knew of few problems with the voter ID requirements, tardy chief precinct judges in Cabarrus and Catawba counties delayed voting at their polling places.

The voter ID law is being challenged in court and doesn’t allow student identification cards. Provisional ballots are available for those without acceptable identification.

Kristin Mavromatis of the Mecklenburg County’s elections board said more voters than normal voted through provisional ballots. The biggest issue, she said, was with out-of-state students who are registered locally but did not have North Carolina driver’s licenses as the law requires.

Bob Hall, executive director of the voter advocacy group Democracy North Carolina, said hundreds of callers to a hotline reported problems across the state.

“There were places where there were not enough ballots and provisional ballots, places where machines were not working, places where people were told they couldn’t use provisional ballots, problems with student IDs,” Hall said.

Voting at Trinity United Methodist Church in Kannapolis was to start at 6:30 a.m., but the judge arrived at 7:14 a.m. Four voters were turned away, state officials said.

The State Board of Elections, in an emergency meeting Tuesday evening about delays in four counties, decided to extend voting in the precinct by a half-hour.

A chief judge in Catawba County overslept and delayed voting there by 25 minutes, affecting two voters. Catawba’s election board did not ask for extended voting.

“This is not acceptable,” state board Chairman Grant Whitney Jr., a Charlotte lawyer, said in the board’s conference call. “I am not in a forgiving mood for people who made promises to the state and didn’t show up. I want a reason why.”

Precinct Judge Jennifer Baker said turnout in her Westport precinct on Lake Norman’s western shore was already over 25 percent at noon Tuesday, with about 600 early voters and more than 450 so far Tuesday.

Baker said she had given out 10 provisional ballots, mostly for people who said they had registered at the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Outside the precinct at West Charlotte High School on Tuesday morning, 91-year-old John Thomas Neal Sr. said he was voting for Hillary Clinton because of her longstanding support of education.

Neal said he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be around, but that his grandchildren would benefit from good educations. “I felt like she’s the one for me,” Neal said.

Outside the precinct at West Charlotte High Tuesday morning, 91-year-old John Thomas Neal Sr. said he was voting for Hillary Clinton because of her longstanding support of education.

Carla Shine, 26, said education is why she voted for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and for the statewide $2 billion bond referendum. Two-thirds of the money would support higher education.

Shine is a full-time student at Central Piedmont Community College with the goal of becoming a respiratory therapist. She cited Sanders’ support of universal education and making Wall Street help pay for it.

“He said Wall Street has been bailed out and that it’s time for them to return the favor,” Shine said.

Digital specialist Clayton Hanson, staff photographer Davie Hinshaw and staff writers Joe Marusak and Hope Paasch contributed.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer

  Comments