Local elections in NC Tuesday: Check before you go to the polls

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Voters will return to the polls in many North Carolina communities Tuesday as the state undergoes the first election since the new photo voter ID requirement went into effect.

Municipal elections are taking place in 86 counties across the state as voters choose mayors and other local leaders.

Olivia McCall, elections director in Wake County, said her office has worked to educate voters about the voter ID law as they prepare for much larger turnout in 2024.

“The training that we do with our precinct officials, we’re trying to get the information out to the communities, to make sure that everybody knows this is a requirement for this upcoming election. And, I think that the public has been informed,” she said.

McCall noted that voters who participated in the elections that took place in October had the necessary IDs, and that no voter had to cast a provisional ballot due to lacking an ID.

“October, we didn’t see any issues with photo ID. Everybody was prepared. Everybody had their acceptable form of ID ready to go,” she said.

She noted that her office will be working between now and the March 2024 presidential primary to ensure more voters are aware of the new requirement.

For more information on the types of IDs that are acceptable, click here.

As far as this year’s local elections are concerned, McCall said the most common issue she’s heard about from voters is confusion about whether they’re even eligible to vote Tuesday.

While 13 municipalities in Wake County have elections Tuesday, some do not, most notably the City of Raleigh.

The most common questions McCall has heard include, “Is it for them? Do they have something that they need to be voting on? So, the big thing is making sure they check their information.”

To see a list of candidates running and to view your sample ballot, click here.

Chris Cooper, an expert on state politics at Western Carolina University, says he expects turnout will be low Tuesday, likely around 16 percent.

During the municipal primary Charlotte held in September, turnout was just under 5 percent.

In October, Wake and Durham counties had about 12 percent turnout for the elections that occurred then.

Raleigh recently stopped holding local elections in odd-numbered years. The General Assembly passed a law moving the city’s elections to even-numbered years starting in 2022.

Gerry Cohen, who serves on the Wake County Board of Elections, noted that when Raleigh, Winston-Salem, and Asheville moved their elections to even-numbered years that turnout roughly tripled.

“Tinkering with which date in the odd-numbered year to have a municipal election is simply moving the deck chairs on the voter turnout Titanic,” he wrote on X. “It’s important to recognize that much of the push a century ago to move municipal elections to odd years was to deliberately reduce turnout, especially among renters, minorities and newly naturalized citizens who voted heavily in even years.”

Cooper said officials weigh various factors in deciding whether to push to change when they hold elections.

“It’s a tradeoff. There’s no question about it. Do you want higher voter turnout? Do you want a more representative electorate? If so, this is a bad idea. We should move them all to even-numbered year elections,” Cooper said.

He added that some local officials worry that by moving their elections to even-numbered years the focus would be largely on national and statewide races instead of the local ones.

“These are really not partisan issues, and that your opinion about Donald Trump should probably not tie too much to your opinion about your local town council member,” said Cooper. “We’ve seen all politics become increasingly nationalized. So, I do worry a little bit that that’s a bit of a fiction, that idea that we can separate the local from the national.”

Cooper said only about half the races on the ballot statewide Tuesday will be competitive.

Cooper noted that the low turnout expected on Tuesday means that your vote could matter that much more. He lives in the Town of Sylva, which recently has seen two tied races for the town council which were ultimately determined by a coin flip.

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