Local Politics

Runoff races draw fraction of May voter turnout

Six weeks after North Carolina voters turned out in record numbers, Tuesday's runoff primary may set a mark for the lowest turnout ever.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina voters went back to the polls Tuesday to choose runoff winners for state labor commissioner and other legislative and local races, their numbers at the polls a small fraction of the record turnout for the May 6 primary.

Democrats John Brooks and Mary Fant Donnan competed for the commissioner's nomination, the lone race on the statewide ballot, for the chance to take on Republican incumbent Cherie Berry in November.

Nearly 1.6 million people, or 37 percent of all registered voters, cast ballots in last month's primary, bolstered by the Democratic presidential showdown between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

But with just the commissioner's race and two legislative runoffs, turnout may be the lowest in at least 15 years. Only 2.5 percent of registered Republicans cast ballots in the 2000 GOP labor commissioner's runoff between Berry and John Miller, state elections director Gary Bartlett said.

About 10,000 people cast early ballots either by mail or at county election offices, he said.

"It might be the election officials who are the largest bloc of voters," Bartlett said Tuesday, calling activity at the nearly 3,000 precincts statewide "extremely slow."

There also are local races on the ballots.

  • In the 5th Senate District, which includes parts of Wayne, Pitt and Greene counties, Don Davis and Kathy Taft will compete for the Democratic nomination.
  • Jonathan Alston and Leigh Bordley compete for an at-large seat on the Durham school board.
  • A nominee will also be chosen for Vance County school board.
  • In Franklin County, voters will choose a nominee for an at-large county commission post.
  • And Orange County voters in District 2 will choose a Democrat to run for county commissioner.

Voters who voted in the primary on May 6 can vote in the runoff in the same party. Voters who did not participate in May can choose which party ballot to vote in the second primary.

Polls opened at 6:30 a.m. and were due to close at 7:30 p.m.