Pundits spent lots of words last year saying increased voter turnout among young people and first-time voters signaled an increase in civic engagement.
This year’s tiny local elections will test that theory.
Charlotte’s primary is Tuesday, Sept. 15, and absentee voting is available now until Tuesday, Sept. 8, if you’re mailing in your ballot. Races with primaries include the Republican Party’s mayoral race, at-large city council races (vote for four) and some city council district races.
The east side of Charlotte has two contested Democratic Party district races, in District 1 (Patsy Kinsey vs. Owen Sutkowski) and District 5 (Nancy Carter vs. Darrell Bonapart). The winners in those districts have no Republican competition in November, so the primary settles the seats.
Some districts have contested school board races. Most of east Charlotte does not, because incumbent Tom Tate of District 4 is running unopposed.
One-stop early voting, which allows you to register and vote at the same time, is available at the Hal Marshall Annex at 618 N. College St. Dates and times: Aug. 27 to Sept. 4, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sept. 8 to Sept. 11, 8 a..m. to 7 p.m.; and on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., according to a flyer from the Mecklenburg Board of Elections. (Click under “Early Voting” here for a PDF of the flyer.)
College students: You can register to vote in the community where you are attending school so long as you don’t register to vote elsewhere. Lots of disinformation on how such a move can affect you and your family has floated around in the past. The best place to get reassurance is Rock the Vote.
If you’re a student from Mecklenburg County going to college elsewhere and you want to vote in Mecklenburg, you can write a letter requesting a ballot or have a relative write or visit the Board of Elections to request a ballot. Details are here.
Unaffiliated voters: Long ago in North Carolina, unaffiliated voters could not vote in primaries. That restriction is gone, with both the Republican and Democratic parties allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in primaries. You cannot switch parties, however, to vote in a runoff, if any exists. This site explains in more detail.
Next question: For whom do you vote?
I’ll leave that up to you, but I do urge you do to your homework through the Mecklenburg Board of Elections candidates list, which includes links to candidates’ websites. (Bonapart’s site is not listed there, but it’s linked above.) First search to find out which districts you are in, to cut down on the number of candidates you need to research. Many of the candidates have Facebook group or fan pages as well, and some updates are available only there.
One piece of advice: Candidates post notes about organizations that have endorsed them, and some caution is advised. For example, the Eastside Political Action Committee has endorsed a candidate in the District 1 City Council race. I’m personally curious whether those making that endorsement live in District 1. (Please feel free to speak up in comments if so.)
Good luck, and vote early.
Image information: City council districts, from the Mecklenburg Board of Elections site. Go here if you want more maps, such as a map of school board districts.