Political parties protest malls' campaining ban
Posted October 18, 2008 10:51 a.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2008 10:45 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Amid record early voting in North Carolina, a protest against electioneering rules drew Republicans and Democrats together at polling places at two Wake County malls Saturday.
The parties held joint gatherings at Triangle Town Center in Raleigh and Cary Towne Center to protest a company ban on campaigning anywhere on mall property.
"The two malls are the only ones with no electioneering," Doris Weaver, with the Wake County Democratic Party, said.
The malls, owned by the same company, do not allow candidates or anyone else to campaign on the grounds, including parking lots. Mall rules do not allow people to pass out pamphlets without prior permission.
State law permits campaigning at least 50 feet beyond voting sites.
Wake County Board of Election officials said that they agreed in July to allow the malls an exception to that rule.
Members of both parties said the malls' ban is not fair – and comes at a particularly bad time.
“I think both Democrats and Republicans agree that this is the most important election of a generation – maybe ever,” David Robinson, chairman of the Wake County Republican Party, said.
“I’ve been a candidate and I’ve worked for the Democratic Party for 30 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever been blocked for advocating my candidate at the polls,” Linda Gunter said.
Statewide, 214,000 voters braved hours-long lines to cast their ballots on the first two days of early voting.
So far, the numbers have clearly favored Democrats. Some 62 percent of voters who have cast a ballot in early voting are registered with the party. Only 22 percent are registered Republicans.
By comparison, about 46 percent of all registered voters in the state are declared Democrats, while 32 percent are with the GOP.
Amy Black, 40, of Kernersville, said she is not concerned by the low early turnout of registered Republicans like herself. She plans to early vote next week to beat the lines.
"It's only been two days," she said, after attending a rally for Republican presidential nominee John McCain in Concord.
The state GOP says that many Democrats and independents in North Carolina – where President Bush won by 12 points four years ago – might trend to McCain. Voters in the state generally prefer Democrats for state offices and Republicans to hold national seats.
Athough Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama pushed voters to the polls on opening day, the Republicans are planning a number of political events in the upcoming week to emphasize the voting option. They have also invested in mail-in absentee balloting.
Elections officials and campaign observers expect that one-third of North Carolina voters could go to the polls before Election Day.
In the Triangle, one-stop voting sites at the malls, Pullen Arts Center and the Chavis Community Center were scheduled to be closed Monday through Wednesday, but officials said Saturday they will be open and remain so until early voting ends on Nov. 1, Wake County Board of Elections officials said.
Monday through Wednesday, the locations will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Additional early voting locations in Wake County will open on Thursday.