County voter turnout low compared to previous years

Published 12:10 am Thursday, November 5, 2015

Voter turnout records in Rowan County remain intact following 2015’s municipal elections.

A total of 5,430 people — or about 14.23 percent of registered voters — participated in this year’s elections. It’s better than turnout numbers for some nearby counties, but near the bottom of previous municipal years. Rowan County did better than the lowest year on record for municipal turnout — 2013 — but fell short of 2011’s 14.5 percent.

Races with few or no challengers could be a factor, but even previous years with limited competition in a portion of races fared better than 2015’s numbers.

Turnout numbers appear more rosy in individual races, especially in Rowan’s smaller municipalities.

East Spencer had the highest turnout, according to precinct-by-precinct results. Voters in East Spencer turned out at a 22.8 percent rate, which is higher than 2013’s and nearly identical to 2011’s race.

Landis, Spencer and Cleveland weren’t far behind. Landis had a 21.5 percent turnout, Spencer 20.6 percent and Cleveland 20.4 percent. Landis and Spencer were among the most hotly contested races during 2015’s elections. In Cleveland, Danny Gabriel ran unopposed and three people ran for two spots on the Cleveland Board of Commissioners.

The lowest turnout numbers came in Granite Quarry, China Grove and Rowan’s Kannapolis precincts. The number of open positions on Granite Quarry’s town board matched with the number of candidates running. In China Grove, Lee Withers ran unopposed for mayor and three candidates ran for two open spots on the town board. Kannapolis re-elected its incumbents in a race that featured seven candidates running for three spots.

Rowan County Board of Elections records show Salisbury as the only race that beat multiple previous turnout numbers. In Salisbury, about 16 percent of registered voters cast ballots during the City Council race. The 2001 council race is the next highest for turnout at 23 percent.

Salisbury’s turnout rate was bolstered by strong results from a few large precincts. Large numbers of voters came from Precinct 40, or North Ward — downtown west of Innes Street and surrounding neighborhoods — and Precinct 39, immediately to the northwest of 40. Precinct 35 or West Ward 1 — downtown west of Innes and the West Square neighborhood — also turnout out a hefty number of voters.

Technically, Precinct 11, or Franklin, turned out the highest percentage of voters, but it contains a relatively minuscule number of city voters.

West Ward 3 — also known as Salisbury’s West End Neighborhood — turned out the fewest voters among large precincts. In West Ward 3, a total of 2,649 people are registered to vote and 213 cast ballots. It was an 8 percent turnout.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.