Presidential primary lured new voters in Rowan
By Steve Huffman
Only 31 percent of Rowan County’s eligible voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary.
But interest in the Democratic presidential primary seemed to motivate a number of first-time and younger voters to make it to the polls.
Nancy Evans, director of the Rowan County Board of Elections, said 2,078 people registered to vote between Jan. 1 and May 3, the last day of early voting.
Evans said the number is high, “especially for a primary.”
She said she didn’t recall many of those people registering to vote mentioning by race the Democratic presidential clash pitting Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
But Evans said she’d be willing to bet that was the race that prompted most of the new voters to make it to the polls.
“It had to be the presidential race pulling them out,” Evans said. “There’s such a fight for delegates.”
Obama won in Rowan County and across the state, though the local contest was closer than the one staged statewide.
That likely owes to the fact that both Bill and Hillary Clinton made campaign stops in the county in the weeks leading to the election, while Obama made no such local appearances.
In Rowan County, Obama garnered 8,143 (49.56 percent) votes to Clinton’s 7,811 (47.54 percent). Across the state, Obama took about 56 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 42 percent.
A total of 4,502 voters took part in early voting in Rowan County. Evans said the number seemed fairly high, though she also noted that in 2004, during the last presidential election, the primary was postponed until July when turnout was miniscule, so comparing the two events is difficult.
In the Democratic presidential primary, 16,530 votes were cast. In the Republican presidential primary, the total number of votes cast was 10,005.
Unaffiliated voters have the option of voting in either primary.
The interest in the Democratic presidential race is demonstrated by a voter-registration drive held in April at Livingstone College. A couple of weeks later, more than 100 students from the college marched to the Board of Elections to cast ballots via early voting.
Genoal Russell, chairman of the Rowan County Democratic Party, said she was pleased with the turnout for Tuesday’s primary, though she also noted, “I was hoping for a little larger number.”
Russell said she carried a few voters to the polls, transporting those who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to cast ballots.
“We try our best to get people registered, to get them out to the polls,” Russell said.
She said enthusiasm for the primary is something that those involved in politics like to see.
“We had some good candidates, some good people running,” Russell said. “I’m looking forward to working with them.”
Across the state, the primary shattered voter turnout records.
More than 2.1 million people cast a ballot in Tuesday’s election, and most voted in the Democratic primary that featured the historic race for the White House.
Final numbers hadn’t been tallied Wednesday as county elections offices counted provisional ballots. But state elections chief Gary Bartlett said he expects turnout to finish at about 50 percent for Democrats and about 23 percent for Republicans. Overall turnout will be about 38 percent.
The primary election of 1988 had the highest previous turnout at 31 percent. In 2004, turnout was 16 percent.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.