Local News

Low Voter Turnout Projected Across N.C.

Posted November 6, 2006

— Despite several high-profile races and ballot measures, analysts expect voter turnout Tuesday to be among the lowest ever in North Carolina.

A $970 million school construction bond issue, the sheriff's race and a bitter congressional battle highlight the Wake County ballot, while Durham voters will decide whether the prosecutor handling the rape case involving Duke University lacrosse players should remain in office.

Still, many political observers predict that, when the ballots are tallied Tuesday, less than 40 percent of North Carolina's registered voters will exercise their right. That would mark a new low.

Those numbers are after an increase in early voting.

About 26,000 Wake County voters cast ballots before Election Day, about 8,000 more than 2002. The statewide numbers improved by more than 100,000 from the last mid-term election four years ago.

"This is a blue moon election. We don't have any major races at the top of the ballot to drive people to the polls," Democratic political consultant Brad Crone said.

Oher than judges, there are no statewide or national races on the ballot.

"It looks like we may set a new record," State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett said, adding that he hopes voters prove him and others wrong. "Whenever there is a hotly contested race, there is a high amount of activity."

The competition for some races can be seen on television and found in area mailboxes, where campaign ads continue popping up. Most reflect the nasty side of politics, lampooning or digging up dirt on candidates.

"You kind of ignore them for the most part," voter Clinton Hodge said of the negative political ads. "You take it with a grain of salt."

Crone said discrediting an opponent can be an effective part of politics.

"While sometimes it gets nasty, sometimes it goes over the edge. You've got to draw those differences," he said. "People say they don't react to it, but the fact is, it does have impact on them. If it didn't, we wouldn't be sending them out."

Other political observers lament that negative ads can have a negative impact on voter turnout.

"It's purposely designed to lower morale and make you sick of the process so that you don't trust anybody," said Chris Heagarty of the Center For Voter Education.

Heagarty said he hopes voters will do their homework -- without the hype of the ads -- and then do their civic duty.

"If you don't know who's on that ballot and you cast a vote, you could be casting a vote against your own interest," he said.

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