VOTE ANYWAY: “I am mortified to have taken part in a process that required bars to be closed.” – Election Day comment by Jimmy Breslin, a newspaper columnist and 1969 candidate for New York City Mayor. A few years later, the ban on election-day liquor sales was repealed.
ELECTION DAY OBSERVATIONS:
1 Voter Turnout? To what degree will the $100 million spent on the U.S. Senate campaign drive more voters to the polls today? And, which message – dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama or distress over the actions of Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP-dominated General Assembly – will be the prime motivator? In the last two off year elections – 2006 and 2010 – North Carolina voters stayed away from the polls in droves. In 2006, a mere 37 percent of the state’s registered voters cast ballots. In 2010 a slightly less dismal 44 percent of the voters bothered to make the trek to the ballot box. Now, in 2006, there wasn’t a significant statewide race to motivate campaigners or voters – but Democrats and Republicans showed up in equal proportions – 39 percent of the Democrats and 39 percent of the Republicans. In 2010 there was a race for the U.S. Senate as well as the Koch brothers-financed Tea Party movement that particularly energized the GOP. While overall turnout was improved from 2006 with 45 percent of the Democrats voting, 51 percent of the Republicans voted – resulting in the GOP tide of 2010. Will angry public school teachers and disappointed parents concerned about cuts in the classroom – and Moral Monday protesters energized by voter ID laws and cuts in the social safety net -- take out their frustration on Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis? Will frustration and distrust over Obamacare and gun laws and immigration be taken out on Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan?
2. Do Republicans have ground game? In the last few days of the campaign, focus has shifted from campaign money and news media blitzes to voter turnout. The GOP, acknowledging it had been behind in the past, boasted a heightened concern and focus. Republican community organizers boasted of a high tech focus and slick smartphone apps to target get-out-the-vote efforts. Does early voting turnout provide any indication of the effectiveness of the Republicans’ increased effort? Final early voting numbers show 18 percent of the state’s 6.6 million registered voters have already cast ballots: Cumulatively, Democrats are 49 percent of the ballots cast; Republicans 31 percent and others 20 percent.
3. Do candidates matter? The flood of outside cash that has financed “independent” campaigns on behalf of Tillis and Hagan seem to overshadow the candidates and issues of concern to North Carolina voters. Is the fact that Hagan’s campaign has outraised Tillis’ by nearly 3 to 1, any indication of support, or can candidates forgo aggressive campaign fundraising as an indication of backing, knowing they’ll be propped up by the super wealthy and independent committees?
4. Will it be Democrats leading chants of “fraud at the polls”? Last week voters in Guilford County complained that electronic voting machines were switching their votes for Democrat Kay Hagan to votes for Republican Thom Tillis. Elections officials examined the machines and got the same results. While the voters who complained got to recast their ballots of other machines, how many voters didn’t catch the error? Will there be more machines casting zombie votes?
5. Turnout? Bigger turnout, in larger counties, could indicate a friendly wind for Democrats in statewide campaigns. Watch results in Buncombe, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Orange and Wake counties. Turnout in these counties was generally higher than the state average for Republicans in 2010 and lower than the state average for Democrats.