Mecklenburg County voters head to the polls Tuesday after setting early voting record

·4 min read
Jeff Siner/jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Mecklenburg County elections officials expect about 40,000 people to show up to the polls Tuesday and cast ballots in primary elections for everything from U.S. Senate to sheriff.

Some of North Carolina’s races have gained national recognition. Among them, the Republican primary for U.S. Senate has been branded as a test of former President Donald Trump’s hold on the GOP because of his endorsement of Rep. Ted Budd. Locally, political observers are watching competitive races for City Council, the Board of County Commissioners and other seats.

Polling places will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and anyone in line by 7:30 is allowed to vote.

More Mecklenburg County voters cast ballots early this year than in any other non-presidential primary on record. Elections Director Michael Dickerson told The Charlotte Observer Friday he expected a total of 37,000 people to vote early this year.

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Over the weekend, voters beat his prediction. More than 42,000 people voted early — 12,700 people cast ballots on Friday and Saturday.

What’s garnering interest?

Dickerson said he thinks the U.S. Senate primary is driving voter interest. Budd faces former Charlotte Mayor and Gov. Pat McCrory, former Rep. Mark Walker, combat veteran Marjorie Eastman and others in the Republican primary. Budd and McCrory are considered the front-runners. Democrat Cheri Beasley is expected to win her primary.

There were 16 in-person early voting sites this year. Dickerson said he’s hoping for more in the fall. The most popular sites were the old Kohl’s in the university area, the Allegra Westbrooks Library on Beatties Ford Road and the SouthPark Library.

The Democratic primary for Charlotte City Council at-large puts incumbents up against familiar faces such as former Mayor Patrick Cannon and former council members James “Smuggie” Mitchell and LaWana Slack-Mayfield.

The county at-large race is also competitive, with six Democrats vying for three seats. Two incumbents, Pat Cotham and Leigh Altman, hope to hold their seats.

Dickerson said he expects about 80,000 people to vote during the primary — a turnout rate of just over 10%.

Based on the number of people who voted early, turnout could be a higher, but about 74,000 people would have to go to the polls Tuesday to reach a 15% turnout rate.

In the 2018 primary, 21,000 people voted early. The total turnout rate was 11%. In the 2014 primary, 9.5% of registered voters cast a ballot.

People can find their sample ballots and polling locations by visiting the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections’ website.

Voters can find their precinct number when they complete the sample ballot form.

What’s on the ballot?

Aside from U.S. Senate, other federal elections on the ballot are for U.S. House. In Mecklenburg, incumbent Democrat Alma Adams and state Sen Jeff Jackson are expected to win primaries for districts 12 and 14, respectively. Both face primary competitors and Republican opposition in November.

U.S. House districts 12 and 14 are considered by political observers to be safely Democratic, though the district Jackson is running in is more competitive. District 14 includes southern and western Mecklenburg County and much of Gaston County. District 12 includes northern and eastern Mecklenburg County.

Two former sheriff’s deputies — Gina Hicks and Marquis Robinson — are running against incumbent Gerry McFadden. Incumbent District Attorney Spencer Merriweather faces a challenge from Democrat Tim Emry.

Neither the sheriff nor district attorney race has a Republican competitor, so the Tuesday primary will determine the victor.

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Charlotte mayor Vi Lyles has three competitors. Two Republicans are also running. The mayor and City Council candidates will have a general election in July.

District and at-large seats for City Council and the Board of County Commissioners are on the ballot, except where there is no primary competition. Races not on primary ballots include City Council District 7 and Board of County Commissioners districts 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

The at-large races for both bodies have garnered the most attention.

The Democratic at-large City Council candidates are LaWana Slack-Mayfield, Dimple Ajmera, Larken Egleston, Braxton Winston, Patrick Cannon and James “Smuggie” Mitchell. The Republicans are David Merrill, Kyle Luebke, Carrie Olinski, Charlie Mulligan and David Michael Rice. Voters can pick four candidates from whichever primary they choose.

The Democratic at-large candidates for the Board of County Commissioners are Jennifer De La Jara, Altman, Cotham, Arthur Griffin Jr., Yvette Townsend-Ingram and Trina Boyd. Voters can pick three. There is only one Republican running.

Two City Council districts — District 1 and District 5 — do not have incumbents or a Republican running.

There are also several judicial seats up for grabs, including district court judge positions with primaries.

For the N.C. General Assembly, a few local seats have competitive primaries. One in eastern Mecklenburg County doesn’t have a general election competitor.

Three Democrats vying for the N.C. House District 112: former state Rep. Tricia Cotham, small business owner Jay Holman and educator Yolanda Holmes.

In southeast Mecklenburg County, one of two Democrats — Laura Budd or Ann Harlan — will face Republican Bill Brawley in the general election for N.C. House District 103.

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