Voters few and far between in labor commissioner runoff
By Steve Huffman
SPENCER ó As of 2:10 p.m. Tuesday, eight voters had cast ballots in Spencer in the runoff for labor commissioner.
But Alane Mills, chief judge of the Spencer precinct, said an asterisk should be included when mentioning those votes.
“We’ve had eight voters,” Mills said, motioning toward herself and fellow precinct workers Nyoka Freeze and Pat Baker, “but we’re two of them.”
Then Mills laughed, which was probably a good thing.
On a day when voter turnout was as low as it was, precinct workers had to chuckle about the situation lest they lose their sanity.
Nancy Evans, Rowan County’s elections director, said the situation in Spencer was indicative of voter turnout throughout the county.
At mid-afternoon, she said some precincts had had but two ballots cast in the race pitting Democratic candidates Mary Fant Donnan and former commissioner John C. Brooks.
The winner in the runoff will square off against incumbent Cherie Berry in the November general election.
About 4 p.m. Tuesday, workers at the North China Grove precinct called to report that they’d greeted a grand total of six voters.
Evans perked up when she learned that Spencer had recorded eight votes. “That’s the most I’ve heard of,” she said.
Asked how the workers were passing the hours between those grand moments when a voter stepped into the polling place, Evans said, “Most of them just brought a book and things like that.”
Regardless of the low turnout, all of Rowan County’s 46 precincts were staffed from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., each with three workers.
Across the state, the runoff was expected to cost as much as $5 million, with the expense shared by all 100 counties. Some may pay more if there are local elections included on the ballot.
Evans said she expected Tuesday’s runoff to cost at least $25,000 in Rowan County.
Meanwhile, back at North Rowan High School, home to the Spencer precinct, Mills, the precinct judge, cracked a number of jokes about the day and the turnout.
She noted there was only one voting booth available at North for the runoff, compared to the 11 that were used for the May 6 primary. Even that single booth used for Tuesday’s runoff did little more than collect dust.
“It doesn’t take long to mark one vote,” Mills said.
She said the only time there was anything resembling a backlog of voters Tuesday occurred when a husband and wife came together to cast ballots.
“We haven’t had the usual problem of people trying to vote for too many,” Mills said. “They’ve only got one box to mark.”
She and her fellow precinct workers were situated in the lobby at North Rowan, and said they spent a goodly portion of the day greeting parents who came to the school to pick up their children’s report cards.
Mills said she looked forward to 7:30 p.m., the precinct’s closing time, when she’d do her chief judge duty and step outside to report that the day’s voting was done.
“At 7:30, I’ll go out and tell the air that the polls are closed,” Mills said.