Put up or shut up time
If you were embarrassed by Rowan County’s poor voter turnout in the second primary of 2012 — and you should have been — now’s your chance to restore our self respect and reputation. Our do-over primary takes place on Tuesday.
There are a lot of races on the ballot, but the most important locally is the GOP race for county commissioner. Candidates are Brandon Cupp, Joe Coladarci, Gregory C. Edds, Jim Greene, Judy Klusman, Jonathan Love, David Roueche and Jim Sides.
There’s been talk of doing away with second primaries in North Carolina, and good arguments can be made pro and con. But the issue at hand is this spring’s first primary, and Rowan is looking for a good turnout.
The last time we elected county commissioners and legislators was 2012. The turnout for the first primary in May was respectable as primaries go — 32.41 percent. That means nearly 30,000 of the county’s 90,000 registered voters participated. Turnout only climbs over 60 percent in presidential elections; it drops in off-year elections and practically plummets in primaries. So 32 percent was OK.
However, the second-place finisher in a primary in North Carolina can call for a second or “runoff” primary if the top vote-getter fails to win a plurality of 40 percent. Similar rules apply to races like the county commission race in which several seats are being voted on at once.
That was the case in 2012, when four commission candidates were involved in a second primary in July. A grand total of 7,218 voters participated — an 8 percent turnout. The fact that the top finishers in the May primary lost in a second primary with miniscule turnout has been a source of doubt ever since. Craig Pierce and Mike Caskey won fair and square, but most of the voters who participated in the first primary went AWOL in the summer. So did the outcome really reflect the majority opinion of Republicans in Rowan County?
This year the doubters must put up or shut up. Though Pierce and Caskey are not on the ballot, some like-minded candidates are. The results of this primary season should answer the question of where Rowan really stands. The November election should then put an exclamation mark on it. The controversies of the past few months have riled people up; they are engaged and eager to exercise their right to vote. No one can claim that the result is not representative of the county.
Republicans might consider the primary results muddled by the 475 jump in unaffiliated voters since January, many planning to vote in the GOP primary. If overall turnout is high and candidates win by substantial margins, that point will be moot. Let’s get as many voters to the polls as possible so that whoever wins — repeat, whoever wins — can claim a substantial lead and a genuine mandate.