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Elect 2012: Many voted early, but turnout was steady

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — When the election dust settled from Tuesday’s primaries, Rowan County had sent 29,141 voters to the polls — the population of a small city, such as Salisbury.
The 32 percent turnout was fueled by something more than the candidates on Tuesday’s ballots.
“It’s got to be the amendment,” said Republican Rowan County commissioner candidate Bill Feather, who spent much of the day at his home polling place, Granite Quarry.
Rowan County followed the overall state sentiment in favor of a constitutional amendment (“Amendment One” on the ballot) to prevent North Carolina from recognizing gay marriage and civil unions.
Rowan County supported the amendment with 74.32 percent for and 25.68 percent against.
Tuesday’s turnout actually surpassed that of the presidential primary year in 2008, when 31 percent of Rowan’s voters showed up. In 2008, there was more drama in the Democratic primary for president as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were still vying for the nomination.
This year, the Democratic and Republican nominees for president are essentially set: Obama on the Democratic side and Mitt Romney as the GOP choice.
As you might expect, Obama (unopposed) and Romney led the ticket in Rowan. Romney captured 63.55 percent of the Republican vote. His closest challenger was Rick Santorum at 11.98 percent.
For the most part, Rowan voters generally followed the statewide trends in the primaries.
Governor’s race
In the Republican primary for governor, Rowan County gave a ringing endorsement to former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, who had 91 percent of the county’s GOP vote. McCrory is a Catawba College graduate.
On the Democratic side, Rowan voters favored Walter Dalton’s candidacy for governor. Dalton had 48.8 percent of the vote to Bob Etheridge’s 32.45 percent.
In Democratic U.S. House races, Rowan’s primary voters favored Elisabeth Motsinger in the 5th District, Larry Kissell in the 8th District and Mel Watt in the 12th. (See those separate stories.)
Rowan Democrats in N.C. Senate District 25 favored Gene McLaurin; Republicans, Gene McIntyre. (See the story.)
Rowan County Commissioner Carl Ford convincingly captured the Republican nomination for N.C. House District 76. (See story.)
Commissioners
Meanwhile, the primaries for two seats on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners were tight among Republicans and Democrats. Former Commissioner Leda Belk led the Democratic side with 27.3 percent of the vote, but there could be a runoff between Ralph Walton (17.5 percent) and Corey Hill (16.43 percent) for the other seat. (See story).
Former Commissioner Gus Andrews led the Republican candidates with 18.85 percent of the vote, but he was followed closely by, in order, Gene Miller, Mike Caskey and Craig Pierce. Runoffs could be in order for both parties. (See story.)
For full election results, go to the Rowan County Board of Elections website.
Early voting
Before the polls even opened Tuesday morning, more than 6.5 percent of Rowan County’s registered voters had taken advantage of the chance to cast their ballots early.
That early, one-stop voting ended Saturday.
Rowan County Elections Director Nancy Evans reported that 5,957 people voted early. Of those, 3,119 were registered Republicans, 1,675 Democrats and 1,156 unaffiliated.
Turnout was steady for much of the day Tuesday, though voters had to dodge some spring showers.
Granite Quarry had an unusually high turnout, with more than 500 having voted by lunchtime.
When Feather was re-elected to the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen last November, the turnout for the town election was only about half of that, he said.
Steve Drake, who owns his own surveying business, was working at the Granite Quarry precinct in support of Amendment One.
Confusion
Drake said the pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church, where he has been attending, urged the congregation to work for the amendment. Drake was handing out information for the amendment that could be affixed to door handles.
Many voters were confused, Drake said, thinking that a vote for the amendment was a vote in support of gay marriages.
“A lot of interest and a lot of confusion on it, too,” agreed Marny Hendrick, who was working the poll in support of Andrews, the Republican candidate for Rowan County commissioner.
Evans had predicted a 35 to 37 percent turnout in Rowan County.
‘Woke me up’
Larry Wright worked on behalf of Republican commissioner candidates Caskey and Pierce outside the South Locke Precinct, which votes at the Locke Fire Department on N.C. 150.
A Rowan County Planning Board member, Wright was familiar with both men through that board. Wright, who often attends commissioner meetings, said he became involved in local government when Salisbury tried to annex his property.
“The annexation issue sort of woke me up,” he said. “People need to be involved, and I just wish more people would be.”
Wright was for the amendment issue. He predicted it would pass statewide with at least 55 percent of the vote. Late Tuesday night, it was being favored by 61 percent of the state’s voters. In Spencer earlier Tuesday, Crystal Greene was handing out information against the amendment to voters.
The literature said the amendment would end up being harmful to children, dangerous to women and a negative for seniors. Close to 200,000 unmarried male and female couples in North Carolina would be adversely affected, it said.
“People took the literature and had a conversation about it,” Greene said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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