Voters head to polls to cast primary election ballots today
Today is the last day for voting in Durham’s municipal primary election, which will narrow the list of mayoral candidates down to two and eliminate two of four candidates vying for the City Council Ward 2 seat.
Six-term Mayor Bill Bell is facing challengers Sylvester Williams, a minister and financial adviser who ran unsuccessfully for the post in 2011, and political newcomer Michael Valentine, a business consultant.
And for the Ward 2 City Council seat held by longtime City Councilman Howard Clement III, four candidates are vying for the two spots on the general election ballot. Clement has served on the council since 1983, but is stepping down.
The contest is between bail bondsman Omar Beasley, retired teacher Eddie Davis, funeral home director Franklin Hanes, and Del Mattioli, who owns a financial services firm.
Early voting for the primary, which started Sept. 19, drew 1,876 voters. The total is down from the turnout for the 2011 municipal primary, when 2,083 people cast ballots early, but it’s up from the 2009 primary’s turnout of 894.
“With so much talk about voting, and all the changes in voting, it’s just more on people’s minds now,” said Durham County Board of Elections Director Michael Perry. “I think, and hope, that people are more determined to go out and vote.”
Perry said the new voter identification law signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory this year will not really affect voters in this election, however.
The biggest changes are further down the pipeline, according to Perry, with the requirement for voters to carry identification to the polls starting in 2016, and the reduction of the early voting period, as well as the change to require voters to cast provisional ballots in their own precincts, starting Jan. 1.
There was a provision that went into effect already that eliminated the option of pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.
“Even if they were 16 years old, and registered, they wouldn’t have been able to vote in October or November anyway,” Perry said.
After today’s primary, the top two vote-getters will move on to the Nov. 5 general election.
In addition to elections for the mayoral and Ward 2 seats, the general election ballot also includes Ward 1 and Ward 3 candidates.
In Ward 1, incumbent Durham City Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden is running unopposed.
And in Ward 3, there are two candidates: appointed City Council Ward 1 incumbent Don Moffitt, and former County Commissioner Pam Karriker.
The seat was previously held by Mike Woodard, who stepped down from his role on the City Council to take a post in the N.C. Senate.
Candidates for council ward seats have to live in the ward they wish to represent, but voters city-wide choose representatives for each ward.
For more information, visit the Durham County Board of Elections website at http://dconc.gov/index.aspx?page=95&redirect=1.