Low voter turnout marks statewide, district runoffs

With reporting by Katie Bailey and Hank Shell:

Jackson County businessman Mark Meadows and his wife, Debbie, stand among supporters gathered at the Fletcher Hampton Inn & Suites Tuesday night as it’s announced that Meadows won the runoff election for the 11th Congressional District’s GOP nomination. Katie Bailey/Carolina Public Press

Pushing his campaign toward a November contest with Democrat Hayden Rogers, Jackson County businessman Mark Meadows earned the Republican nomination for the 11th Congressional District Tuesday after 22,835 votes were cast in the race spanning 17 Western North Carolina counties.

“We have to get back out there, shake as many hands as possible, meet as many people as possible, and let people know our plans,” Meadows said Tuesday night during his campaign’s celebration event held at the Fletcher Hampton Inn & Suites, where he worked his way around two rooms full of enthusiasts, shaking hands, talking about the day, reflecting on the campaign and pausing to hear the latest ballot count.

“We’ve got to get paintbrushes back in the hands of painters and hammers back in the hands of construction workers, and get this country back on track,” he said.

“I’m not in this to lose.”

It was the end of a day, however, seemingly marked by low voter turnout not only in the 11th Congressional District runoff, but also in runoffs for five statewide races.

According to results posted at the N.C. State Board of Elections website at about 10:40 p.m., less than 10 percent of voters cast ballots in all but two of the state’s 100 counties — Vance and Warren counties, in northeastern North Carolina.

State elections information showed that among the 17 westernmost counties, Rutherford County had the lowest turnout, where less than 2 percent of voters cast ballots, followed by other lows of nearly 2.2 percent in Polk County and under 2.9 percent in Buncombe County. The highest voter turnout was in Henderson County, where nearly 8.2 percent of voters cast ballots.

The chief judges at Yancey County’s largest precinct and McDowell County’s second and third largest precincts also reported low turnout. And Amy Young, director of the Mitchell County Board of Elections, said the turnout for the runoff election didn’t compare to that of May’s primary.

Still, Mitchell County’s voter turnout was at more than 8.1 percent, the second-highest rate among the 17 westernmost counties.

“It’s about like statewide,” Young said of Mitchell County-voter turnout earlier in the day. “It’s been fairly low, which, in second primaries, my experience has always been low voter turnout.”

Both Meadows and his runoff rival, candidate Vance Patterson, said they had anticipated a low turnout.

But, both spent much of the day and the last hours of the runoff at Deyton Elementary School in Spruce Pine, in Mitchell County. The school served as the polling location for Mitchell County’s largest precinct, Grassy Creek, where 128 ballots had been cast by 12:15 p.m.

Fred LeMieux, a Spruce Pine resident, said it was civic duty that brought him to the polls at Deyton Elementary School.

“If I miss the election, I’m either dead or someone’s voting for me,” he said.

Other winners in Tuesday’s election:

Democratic nominee for the N.C. Commissioner of Labor: John C. Brooks

Republican nominee for the N.C. Lieutenant Governor: Dan Forest

Republican nominee for the N.C Commissioner of Insurance: Mike Causey

Republican nominee for the N.C. Secretary of State: Ed Goodwin

Republican nominee for the N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction: John Tedesco

All voting results are unofficial until canvass day, which will be July 24.

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Angie Newsome was the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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