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Voter turnout lowest in decade

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY ó In a group of seven Rowan County municipal residents, chances are only one voted in the Nov. 8 election.
Out of 37,848 registered voters in Rowan County cities and towns, just 5,475 of them ó 14.47 percent ó cast ballots in 2011.
It was the countyís lowest voter turnout for a regular, non-primary election in the past decade.
Nancy Evans, county elections director, said itís typical for fewer voters to cast ballots in municipal races.
ěI would have loved for it to be more,î Evans said. ěIím just glad it wasnít less.î
She said itís hard to directly compare the 2009 election, because it included a county-wide ballot initiative. Even though just 10.97 percent of registered voters in the county voted that year, more city and town residents came out to the polls.
For normal municipal elections, voter turnout in Rowan County has decreased steadily from 23.18 percent in 2003 to 17.16 percent in 2005 and 15.09 percent in 2007.
Presential races drew 63.51 percent of the countyís registered voters to the polls in 2004 and 68.61 percent in 2008.
Even midterm state and federal elections have had twice the turnout compared to local ones ó 30.45 percent in 2006 and 40.82 percent in 2010.
Veleria Levy, chairwoman of the Rowan County Democratic Party, wrote in an email to the Post that she is going to make it her ěpersonal missionî to help increase voter turnout. She wants to tell local residents about the importance of exercising their right to vote.
ěIf you donít go out and vote for the people who ultimately have a say-so in your day-to-day life, how can you complain about it?î Levy said in an interview last week.
She said the Democratic Party plans to keep trying to get people to the polls by educating them on whoís running for office, what each position does and how that position affects their day-to-day activities.
ěI think people may be more interested if they understood how each position influences them,î Levy said.
In Rowan County, municipal elections are nonpartisan.
Levy said she thinks both the Democrats and Republicans did a good job this year of inviting candidates to speak at party functions.
But people need to be motivated to come hear the candidates and research them, she said.
Greg Edds, chairman of the Rowan County Republican Party, said people tend to be more energized by the national issues and personalities they see on the evening news, so they pay less attention to local issues that directly affect them.
ěWe just donít take our voting responsibility seriously,î Edds said, ěwhether we donít think our vote will count, or even if it does, that itís not going to change anything.î
He said the Republican Party will continue to concentrate on improving voter turnout, so that more people have a say in how theyíre governed ó and who governs them.
ěVoter apathy is the friend of the incumbent, I think,î Edds said.
Granite Quarry resident David Pruett said he didnít vote because he hadnít heard enough from the candidates by Election Day on Nov. 8.
Pruett has voted in local, state and federal elections in the past. He said he would vote in more of them if he knew more about what the candidates want to do ó and if they would follow through once theyíre in office.
ěLow voter (turnout) is a problem because for local, it actually matters when you vote,î Pruett wrote in a Facebook message. ěThe one thing that hurts is when you do vote for someone you like because of what they promise but then they donít deliver.î
Jeremy Gardner is a political science student at Catawba College who has worked with the Board of Elections, but he didnít vote this year.
He said has never voted in a municipal election, but he did vote in both 2008 and 2010.
Gardner lived in Cabarrus County before he went to college. As a junior, he now has just one year left in Salisbury before he plans to move to Arizona to be with family.
ěI just didnít feel like an immediate benefit would happen, so I just didnít take the time to research and everything like I normally do for state and federal elections,î he said.
Gardner said he does think local elections could be publicized better.
ěI really didnít know it was Election Day until the last minute,î Gardner said. ěIím sure Iím not the only one.î
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
Twitter: twitter.com/postcopolitics
Facebook: facebook.com/Karissa.SalisburyPost

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