Low turnout expected for municipal elections but outcome could have high impact on local issues
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Voters will head to the polls Tuesday for municipal elections across the Cape Fear that will determine who represents them in a number of local government offices.
Statistically speaking, voter turnout in odd-year elections are often low. In fact, less than one in five registered voters will vote in this election cycle.
“At the end of the day, people just aren’t as concerned about politics as we might expect them to be, particularly in local elections where they’re non-partisan, the issues are a little less polarizing,” said Aaron King, an associate professor in UNCW’s Department of Public and International Affairs. “Its more challenging for people to learn about the candidates and the issues and, to be honest, our minds are just elsewhere.”
The lack of interest in participating in these elections may be because voters are less engaged than they are during a presidential election or electing candidates state office.
“People are way more concerned about federal issues, and I would argue, not that those don’t matter but relative to as much as we think that they matter in our day to day lives, its much less,” King said. “Local elections matter much more than we typically perceive also in a local election where you can make a significant difference in your local community.”
In New Hanover County alone, there are a number of offices up for grabs including Wilmington mayor, three city council seats, and a number of other local races in Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach.
Some of those issues include the lack of affordable housing and transportation.
“From driving around this morning you know how busy traffic is, how much this area is growing, what does that look like–whether is Carolina Beach or Wilmington or Wrightsville Beach,” King said. “From issues like affordable housing and people are very concerned about perceived levels of crime and race relations and also some environmental concerns as well so lots of things that can impact your day to day life that people may not typically think about.”
While a number of people have gotten their COVID-19 shot, the ongoing pandemic will also likely discourage some from coming out to vote.
“People’s minds are just elsewhere, they’re worrying about how much candy they got this weekend for Halloween, they’re thinking about their potential holiday travel, to the everyday person, they don’t always know what the local issues are or, heck, where they’re supposed to vote,” King said.
If you’re on the fence about going out to vote on Tuesday, King recommends you push yourself to do it.
“Its very easy to find out information about these candidates whether its from WWAY or the local newspapers,” King said. “Substitute 10 minutes of social media time and learn about the local issues to see how you can make a difference.”
For a sample ballot for your municipality, click here.