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Low voter turnout expected

By Lee Barnes
lbarnes@salisburypost.com
One would think that with a sales tax increase on the menu, voter turnout would be strong for today’s election.
One would think.
Based on the number of voters who cast early ballots ó a usually reliable indicator of overall voting ó election officials are looking at a humble 5 to 7 percent turnout.
All 10 of Rowan County’s municipalities have elections today ó though Granite Quarry’s ballot features only incumbents ó but without state or federal races on the ballot, it’s definitely an off year. But there’s the hot-button matter of the tax referendum, in which voters will decide whether to raise the county sales tax by one-quarter cent, or one penny for every $4 spent.
That’s apparently not enough of an issue to coax voters to the polls. Only about 1,450 people cast early ballots, said Nancy Evans, director of the county’s board of elections.
Early voting ended Saturday.
Because of the tax referendum, all of the county’s polls are open today. Voting hours are 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
With 89,551 registered voters, a 5 to 7 percent turnout translates into some 4,500 to 6,300 voters actually making it to the polls today. Compare that with this time last year, when 62,000 Rowan County voters ó 68 percent ó cast votes.
All of today’s races are nonpartisan.
The local sales tax increase is aimed at raising $2 million annually over 10 years to pay for a $6 million jail annex and a $12 million conversion of the county’s telecommunications system. The federal government is mandating the conversion to digital communications, with a deadline of 2013. Those using the countywide system include firefighters, EMS personnel, emergency dispatchers, sheriff’s office and building inspectors.
Rowan residents now pay a 7.75-cent sales tax. It will go to 8 cents if the referendum passes and the county commissioners give their approval.

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