Lines were nonexistent. Voters scant.
Other than poll workers, the parking lot at Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church in Charlotte’s University City area was nearly empty for City Council and mayoral primaries on Tuesday. The lobby of the precinct — in Charlotte’s hotly contested District 4 — was desolate, except for a piano sitting in the corner.
The primary was expected to draw low turnout as voters traveled to the polls on Election Day. Potential factors: Republicans can’t vote in Democratic primaries, which were the only ones on the ballot, and multiple districts had no primaries. Early voting drew fewer than 9,000 people, or 1.8% of eligible voters.
Mother Nature also had an impact, some poll workers said.
“The biggest thing that happened was the huge rainstorm we got this morning,” said Kathleen Kaake, who helped out at Mallard Creek Presbyterian. Kaake told The Charlotte Observer 49 people cast votes from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesday.
“This is the lowest turnout I’ve seen,” said Kaake, who’s worked in elections for more than four years.
But there was an upside to the calm at Mallard Creek Presbyterian. Kaake, usually the chief judge at her home precinct in Cornelius, took the time to train JW Wallace, a first-time chief judge at the District 4 precinct.
“I got the call about two months ago,” said Wallace, a retired Army major. “In my family and in the Army, your vision is to your community in a fruitful way. This is my way of giving.”
Kaake and Wallace began recruiting election workers six to eight months ago. They helped train new workers, then showed up to the precinct about 5:15 a.m. Tuesday to help set up. They work well after the polls close at 7:30 p.m.
County boards of election appoint chief judges for each precinct, by law.
“I love it,” Kaake said. “Your job is to present a positive experience for voters and ensure their vote has integrity.”
Despite the lack of voters Tuesday, Wallace says he learned a lot.
“I’m treating this like a sponge,” he said. “I’m absorbing everything and listening. It is good that it’s slow, though.”
24 people — and a dog
Just 8,371 voters cast ballots during early voting this primary cycle, with an additional 96 voting early by mail. The pace “is already record low,” Mecklenburg County Board of Elections spokeswoman Kristin Mavromatis told the Observer Monday.
Janine Lafferty, the chief judge at the Hickory Grove Baptist Church North Campus precinct in District 4, said Tuesday mid-morning it was the lowest turnout she had ever seen. Lafferty has been working elections since 2009.
She said not even the City Council District 4 seat, where incumbent Renee Perkins Johnson faced two challengers in her primary, Wil Russell and Olivia Scott, was enough to draw voters.
“It was expected,” Lafferty said. “We’ll get more voters for the General Election because a lot more will be on the ballot that focuses on schools.”
In addition to mayor and City Council seats, three at-large school board seats will be on the ballot in November. Voters also will decide the fate of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ $2.5 billion bond that will pay for about a dozen elementary schools, seven middle schools, 10 high schools and an athletic complex.
Rain kept many voters away when polls opened at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, with three sites in Districts 3 and 4 tallying less than 150 voters across the morning.
Between 6:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., 24 people and a dog trickled through Berewick Recreation Center, a District 3 precinct.
And Marcus, a 2 ½-year-old American bully, was told he wasn’t old enough to vote, his owner Oral Chadwick quipped.
Chadwick voted Tuesday, marking a milestone of voting in 40 elections in Alabama and North Carolina.
“People have died to give me the right to vote, so I will always vote,” Chadwick said. “It’s my duty.”