Elect 2012: Voter registration deadline Friday
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY - With Friday's deadline approaching fast, local Democrats and Republicans are making last-minute efforts to register voters for the 2012 election. Butch Clements, a Republican precinct chair, helped people sign up as they ate lunch Wednesday at CJ's Barbecue in Cleveland. "The biggest thing I have to fight is apathy," Clements said. He said he's found that about 40 percent of people in the Cleveland area don't use computers, and many don't subscribe to the newspaper. "I cannot rely on email or the Internet to get a message out to them... and I can't rely on the Salisbury Post to get the information into people's hands," Clements said. "It's down to old-fashioned, door-to-door retail politics." He said he knocks on doors, visits schools and sets up a voter registration booth at places like CJ's Barbecue. Haley McCulloh, of Woodleaf, registered for the first time at her mother's urging. "I watched the debate, and I know who I'm going to vote for now," she said. "Romney, because we need something different." At that point, Clements gave McCulloh a pamphlet with a list of recommended Republican candidates. The paper also describes certain legislation passed by the GOP-led N.C. General Assembly. "I really have to be impartial until I hear them make a remark," Clements said. When he's helping register high school students, he said, he can't bring up partisan politics at all. Instead, he encourages them to educate themselves by reading newspaper articles about the candidates. Clements said he has registered Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. Relatives Gary, Michael and Terry Hoffner all updated their registration Wednesday. Gary Hoffner said he's moving to the Cleveland area from Rockwell, but he hadn't changed his address yet with the county elections office. "I did (know about the deadline), but if I hadn't been here, I would probably have slipped up and missed it," he said. Gary's son, Michael, said he changed his registration from Republican to unaffiliated, so he can vote in either party's primary. As they filled out their forms, N.C. Rep. Harry Warren came over to answer their questions. Warren had stopped by the restaurant to help out Clements. "I'm glad they were here," Michael Hoffner said. "We would've let it pass us by." Warren said the Wednesday event was part of a recent spontaneous push by Republicans for voter registration. Party members got together at short notice on Saturday to make phone calls and canvass in the community. Veleria Levy said the Democratic Party also had a statewide "day of action" this past weekend. Rowan County Democrats made phone calls in support of their candidates, knocked on doors all over the county and represented the party at different events. Party representatives also made an appearance for the homecoming celebration at Livingstone College, she said. "I am surprised that there are so many unregistered voters," Levy said. Like Clements, Levy has come across apathetic voters, but she said they start to care about the election once they learn more about the issues. "People want to vote today, now," she said. "They are so excited and so fed up with all of the craziness going on within the GOP." Levy said she's glad North Carolinians still don't have to show photo identification when they vote, because it could have kept people away from the polls. This year, Republican state legislators passed a voter ID bill but failed to override the Democratic governor's veto. Supporters of the bill said the requirement is needed prevent voting fraud. Though the Democratic canvassers aren't impartial when talking to people, Levy said they will gladly register anyone who wants to vote, including Republicans. Recently, she said asked a woman which party she thought her son should choose when he registers. "She said, 'You know what, I honestly think he should register unaffiliated,' " Levy said. "I said, 'I agree. He needs to make his own decision about what he is.' " The local Republican party is registering folks every day at its headquarters, Edds said. Members also are talking to high school students who are eligible to vote, he said, and making phone calls to ensure people are properly registered."We find a lot of folks who say they have not voted before, but they are very much engaged and interested this time," Edds said. "And a tremendous amount of people are wanting to switch parties." He said the Republican party has been "very active" in voter registration this year, including setting up a booth at a Livingstone College event. "We want people to have skin in the game, and we want them to pay attention," Edds said. "We want them to know how their country's being run. We want them to have a voice." For more information about voter registration, call the Rowan County Board of Elections at 704-216-8140 or visit www.rowancountync.gov.