Will you be a statistic?
Every election, we exhort citizens to vote, thus helping shape our democracy and determine the direction of our city, state and nation. We spend so much time urging nonparticipants to participate that we fail to examine the registered voters who are casting ballots at the polls.
Who is motivated?
A report in January 2013 by the nonpartisan election reform group Democracy North Carolina about the 2012 general election provides a snapshot of voters in that election.
Granted, 2012 was driven by the presidential and gubernatorial elections in a particularly partisan season, but it gives an idea of who voted if not why. In 2012 in North Carolina, 73 percent of registered Republicans and 70 percent of registered Democrats voted. In every county in the state, more women voted than men. People who were over 65 outnumbered voters ages 18 to 25 in all but Orange, Watauga, Pitt and Durham counties.
The county with the best turnout was Chatham – 76 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Onslow had the lowest turnout.
Two groups had a 74 percent turnout rate: black women and white Republicans.
The statistics are interesting, if not enlightening.
This is a time of turmoil in politics. There is anger over issues ranging from the treatment of the poor, to education, to immigration, to taxation. There is even controversy sparked by voting itself, since the rules were changed by the legislature last session to require voters to begin presenting photo IDs in 2016. Opponents of the new law say it will act as a barrier to more participation, while opponents say it will cut down on fraud. Voters won’t have to present an ID this year, but they will be asked if they have one. If they don’t, they will be put on a list to receive information about how to get one.
Turning an eye to this year’s primary, time is drawing short to participate. The primary on Tuesday will decide some local races outright and essentially will others because there is no opposing candidate slated to run in November.
As of Thursday evening, a meager 4,590 votes had been cast in early voting in Durham, which will wrap up at 1 p.m. Saturday. For context, there were 201,320 registered voters on the rolls in Durham County in April.
That is a shamefully small percentage of ballots cast. In these times when there is so much anger and concern about what is taking place within the political arena, surely voters can find something that will motivate them to vote. To say there’s a lot riding on it is an understatement.