Early voting expands across Mecklenburg County on Saturday, giving the first hint of the level of public interest in the Charlotte mayor’s race, school board campaign, municipal elections and education bonds on the ballot.
Both political parties, as well as education and bond advocates, say they’re trying to rouse voter interest in local elections at a time when federal and state officials, who aren’t on the 2013 ballot, are dominating political discourse. Odd-year elections generally draw no more than 25 percent of registered voters.
Local Democrats and Republicans say they’re canvassing to let people know about early voting. While the uptown Hal Marshall Annex opened to early voters Oct. 17, another 14 sites around the county open Saturday.
Changes to N.C. voter identification laws and early voting opportunities, which have sparked controversy and federal lawsuits, do not take effect this year.
Even people who haven’t registered can take part in early voting if they bring an ID and register on site, said Mecklenburg County Elections Director Michael Dickerson. The Oct. 11 registration deadline only applies to voting on election day Nov. 5.
Both parties say they hope to benefit from frustration over the political wrangling that shut down the federal government.
“We have a vigorous ground game going,” said Brad Overcash, chair of the Mecklenburg Republican Party. He said Charlotte mayoral candidate Edwin Peacock appeals to Republicans, independents and even some Democrats. “We’re really positioned in a strong way to move past a lot of the contentiousness we see at the federal level.”
Democrats are also working phones and holding early-voting events, including a “Souls to the Polls” rally on Sunday. They’re pushing mayoral contender Patrick Cannon and other Democrats on the Charlotte ballot, as well as Democrats running in nonpartisan school board and town elections.
“I think that the Republicans in Washington and Raleigh have alerted Democrats about the need to get out and vote,” said Marc Friedland, first vice chair of the Mecklenburg Democrats.
While the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board encompasses the largest population, workforce and budget, some say that election has generated little awareness so far. Six district seats, the majority of the nine-member board, are up for election.
“Unfortunately, school board races do take a back seat to everything else,” said Democratic Party Chair Robin Bradford, who ran for the CMS board four years ago.
“I am worried that there seems to be some apathy around this election,” said Bill Anderson, executive director of the nonpartisan advocacy group MeckEd. A MeckEd school board candidate forum this week drew only about 50 people, compared with 140 at a similar forum two years ago.
The ballot also asks voters to approve $290 million in bonds for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and $210 million for Central Piedmont Community College. Bradford said volunteers are reminding people to “vote from top to bottom” so they don’t overlook the school board or bonds.
Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter: @anndosshelms