Some thoughts from the primary election results:
North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis showed that having the experience of running for prior public office, combined with a significant war chest, can pay off. Tillis secured the Republican nomination with what was a comfortable margin of five points over the threshold needed against his seven opponents.
In the end, five of the GOP candidates couldn’t receive even 10 percent of the vote.
Tillis dominated the early voting and Election Day voting, winning 45% of election votes and 47% of the early, in-person voting.
Speaking of early voting: North Carolinians have been known to love early voting. In 2012’s general election, 56% of the ballots came before Election Day. Not so with this election though. Not even a quarter of the votes came before Election Day for this primary.
It may be that voters were waiting until the last minute to make up their minds, especially those who voted on the Republican ballot. This could track with the fact that two weeks out from the election, most polls were seeing at least 30% of likely GOP voters still undecided.
A big surprise for many was the claiming of the 12th Congressional District’s Democratic nomination by Alma Adams of Guilford County. With so many candidates in that battle and with several from Mecklenburg County, most believed that the race would end up in a runoff.
The end result was State Representative Adams taking 44% of the vote among the crowded field in both the regular election and the special election. She faces Republican Vince Coakley in the general election, but with the district having voted nearly 80% for President Obama in 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives will get a new member known for her hats.
The closest race still appears to be on the Democratic nomination fight for the 2nd Congressional District to face incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers. With less than 400 votes, Clay Aiken may actually win this round of the people’s vote, but in a district where Mitt Romney claimed nearly 60% of the vote, he may ultimately be another runner-up in the real contest.
There were two epic losers coming out of the primary contests. First, the NC State Board of Elections and its website. Having gone from a contractor that presented the results with a variety of features to doing it in-house, the website was notorious for failing to load, for misreporting vote tallies, and for something I had never seen before in watching an election with a steady increase in the precincts reporting, only to drop backward when a major glitch occurred and wiped out reports.
When reaction to the critical outlet for gaining information on election reports gets lumped in with HealthCare.gov, you know you have a problem. And it wasn’t like national reporters and others were watching the first of a series of key primary elections across the nation; oh, wait, they were. Guess we got a small taste of what Florida felt in 2000.
But even more disheartening than the bumbling of the vote returns was the lack of votes that were reported. Of the 6.5 million registered voters across the state, only 15% bothered to cast a ballot. In Mecklenburg County, not even 10% of the voters decided to show up. Considering that so many races, especially state legislative ones, were ultimately decided in this election, one could deduce that 85% of North Carolinians thought “hey, things are so good, I don’t need to cast vote.”
Perhaps we need not only to reboot of our election reporting mechanism, but reboot our civic duty. Oh, wait, there’s a summer runoff coming; that’s when we will all show up, right?
At least the state Board of Elections website will have a relatively light load come July.