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Early voting demographics show high turnout of whites, Republicans

By Andie Foley
andie.foley@salisburypost.com

Some 1,243 voters in Rowan County had cast their votes in the May primary as of Friday morning.

The total comes one week into the primary, with people coming out in a slow trickle as compared to previous primary.

But not worrisomely slow, assured Nancy Evans, elections director at the Rowan County Board of Elections.

I would say it’s slower but not that much slower than in any off-year primary election,” she said.

Of the 1,243 participating voters, some 91 percent were white and 8 percent were black. The remaining 1 percent was split between undesignated voters, Indian Americans or Alaska Natives, those of two or more races and those designated as “other.”

The numbers deviate from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 population estimates of the county, which lists Rowan as 72.7 percent white and 16.6 percent black.

Registered voters in the county fall closer to the Census Bureau’s numbers: registrants are 77.5 percent white, 17.7 percent white, 0.2 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.4 percent Asian, 0.4 multi-racial, 1.9 percent “other” and 1.9 percent undesignated.

When compared to registration statistics, Friday morning’s numbers show voter turnout is 13.5 percent higher for registered white voters. In contrast, voter turnout for black voters is trailing 9.7 percent.

Of the 1,243 who have voted, 33 percent were unaffiliated, 46 were Republican, and 21 percent were Democrats.

These numbers also fluctuate from registration statistics. Rowan County had 94,275 registered voters at the end of March this year, with 29.6 percent Democrats, 40.5 percent Republicans, 0.4 percent Libertarian, and 29.5 percent unaffiliated.

Evans said a high turnout for Republican voters may be related to this year’s race for three county commission seats.

It’s really hard to say because each primary is different,” she said. “You don’t know what offices are bringing the voters out.”

She said voter response and engagement differs year to year depending on the race. This year, an influx of uncontested races — sheriff, district attorney, clerk of Superior Court and register of deeds — could be causing lower primary interest, she said.

“There’s really not a lot on the ballot for either Democrats or Republican races this year,” she said. “For the primary, I feel like most people are coming out for Congress on the Democratic side, then the commissioners race on the Republican side.”

She said she wasn’t sure how many people were being drawn to the polls by the City of Salisbury Referendum.

Despite a comparatively slow turnout to the last comparable primary in 2014, Evans said she was confident an upswing in voter turnout was on the way.

“Next week will be a better week because the primary is getting closer,” she said. “Maybe voters are waiting to get a little more information about these candidates.”

Early voting at one-stop locations will continue until May 5. Vote at the following locations:

  • The Board of Elections office in West End Plaza at 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd. W.
  • The American Legion building in Rockwell, 8580 U.S. 52.
  • The Rowan Public Library South Branch in China Grove, 920 Kimball Road.

All sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and closed on Sunday.

The Salisbury location will be open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, April 28 and May 5.

Rockwell and China Grove sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 28.

A primary candidate guide will be included with Sunday’s edition of the Post.

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