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As the polls began to close on the night of the 2022 midterm elections, campaign signs, billboards and banners littered the streets of Wilmington. Polling place volunteers guided voters toward booths to fill out last-minute ballots where voters in coastal New Hanover County cast ballots at 43 polling stations.
“I think voters are motivated to have their voices heard,” said Darlene Hill, one of three judges at the Forest Hills Elementary polling station. Each precinct is headed by a chief judge and two judges, who are appointed for two-year terms.
Hill called it an above-average midterm voter turnout, noting that she has worked previous municipal, presidential and midterm elections in New Hanover County.
The county’s residents voted for 19 Republican candidates running for local, state and federal offices, and seven Democrats, according to the latest unofficial results provided by the N.C. State Board of Elections, as of 10:17 p.m. Tuesday, the most recent data submission from the county. In the 2018 midterm elections, New Hanover residents voted for 17 Democrats and only seven Republicans. The data for both years is here and below.
Some political analysts predicted a heavy turnout in this month’s midterms, with 72% of registered voters saying they were “extremely” or “very” motivated to vote this year, according to a Pew report. Voter turnout in both the 2018 and 2022 midterm elections was around 51%, according to uncertified reports submitted to the state Board of Elections.
The official counts and breakdown of in-person and absentee voting will be made public when the county canvasses its votes on Nov. 18. Statewide races will be certified on Nov. 29.
New Hanover Results
Republicans won all four open seats on the county Board of Education and one of two open seats on its Board of Commissioners. New Hanover’s top local law enforcement officials, District Attorney Ben David and Sheriff Ed McMahon – both Democrats – were reelected.
McMahon, who won with over 64% of the votes, held one of his campaign signs outside the Eaton Elementary polling station early Tuesday evening. He urged voters to look at declining crime rates in unincorporated areas of the county and a 31-year career at the New Hanover Sheriff’s Office, including 13 years as sheriff.
“In the unincorporated areas, our crime is down 41% in the past seven years, and violent crime is down 17% in the past year,” McMahon said.
More than 60% of 92,688 votes cast across the county were done through absentee ballots, the bulk of which were submitted by 52,025 one-stop early voters and 3,849 civilian absentee voters, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections. An additional 224 absentee ballots were submitted by military members or civilians living overseas.
At the polls
In downtown Wilmington, Charles Carver rode an electric one-wheeler down Second Street after casting his ballot. He said he made the trip to vote for Democrats because he’s concerned that Republicans “need to be more in reality” about election issues.
“I voted to try to get the Democrats to maintain power. I’m a little concerned about where we’re going as far as elections are concerned,” Carver said.
President Joe Biden urged Americans last week to reject more than 300 candidates across the country who denied the 2020 presidential election results. Former President Donald Trump has fueled widespread belief in the Republican Party that those 2020 results were discredited by faulty voting machines, corrupted absentee ballots, corrupt voting officials, or votes by noncitizens or those voting twice.
“I think New Hanover is more organized than my prior county,” said Lori Apple, chief judge at the Eaton Elementary polling station. After working in previous elections in Forsyth County, she believed voter turnout was stronger in New Hanover County – a product of better organization. She said that her team had arrived at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday and worked 12 hours straight.
Several miles east of Eaton Elementary, Mary Louise Ramsey was overseeing curbside voting at Wrightsville Beach Elementary.
“We saw 12 curbside voters today, which is a lot for down here. We usually have two,” Ramsey said.
Tiffany Thomas, a volunteer holding down a Republican information tent from strong winds outside the Wrightsville Beach polling station, said voter turnout on the island was boosted by strong early voting numbers.
“I think for a midterm election, this will probably be up there with the best,” Thomas said.
She said lines of early voters had extended outside the county’s Board of Elections office the previous week on multiple occasions.
Sitting at a bar in downtown Wrightsville Beach, Dalton Hawkins said he voted because“the country’s falling apart a little bit. It’s best to do your part to put it in the direction you want it to go.”
Correction: The county’s residents voted for 19, not 17, Republican candidates running for local, state and federal offices, while they voted for seven, not six, Democratic candidates.