Ahead of early voting, turnout in solo local elections continues to decline


NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) –  One stop voting begins tomorrow all around the cape fear for local elections.
Mayoral races, city and town council, and more are on the ballot.

“We have seen a steady decrease,” says the New Hanover County board of elections Director Rae Hunter-Havens referring to municpal elections turnout.

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In the last local election, roughly one in ten of registered voters decided who would lead the city of Wilmington government.

Looking at the numbers, during presidential election years like in 2016, 66% of the nearly 170,000 registered voters went to ballot boxes. That’s compared to less than 11 % (10.45%) of the more than 90,000 registered when a president was not on the ballot. In the past years, less than one in four voters decide local races in neighboring Pender, Columbus, and Brunswick counties when it was only local candidates.

“Most of the time at the local level you’re talking more about issues,” says Greg Arey.

Greg Arey chairs the social and behavioral sciences department at CFCC. One issue he says is changing this local election could be what’s in the water. Gen-X is a hot ticket item for H2GO candidates and Wilmington city council.

Leland candidates like those on Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach are concerned with growth and traffic. But will those issues be enough to bring out voters.

“If people are satisfied, they are less likely to show up they just let the status quo stay,” says Arey. “That’s always been one of the assumptions.”

Another major factor is one stop early voting where regardless of turnout makes an impact. Allowing qualified voters a chance to register and vote the same day

“Certainly allows more individuals to vote at a time other than on election day,” says Hunter-Havens. “So it certainly increases voter turnout and certainly can affect the election results because of that.”

Candidates are hoping for your vote nearly every race for mayor, city/town council or utility commission has challengers for incumbents.

Issues aside voters heading to polls will have a tough decision for Wilmington city council as African American incumbent councilman earl sheridan is not seeking re-election. There are three African American candidates seeking office, if they do not carry enough vote, there may not be any African American representation on city council.