Super Tuesday is finally here, and at least for now, there haven’t been any major hitches in North Carolina.
Turnout across the state appeared to start off slow but steady, but by early afternoon several locations were reporting longer lines and wait times of up to an hour, according to voting rights advocates speaking at an “Election Protection” news teleconference.
“This is a high interest elections, so that’s not surprising to us,” said Tomas Lopez, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina.
He said he expects to see even longer lines as voting continues into the evening.
Democracy NC has 340 volunteers deployed today in 37 of the state’s 100 counties to help with voting. The organization is also fielding phone calls to help voters at 888-OUR-VOTE.
Lopez said the organization had a couple hundred phone calls by about 2 p.m., but mostly for informational assistance to help voters find their polling site or explain complicated election rules to them.
Other issues, he added, are similar to what’s gone on in past elections – accessibility to curbside voting, including the quality and quantity of signs at sites and how well assistance is executed.
“This is something we see in all elections,” Lopez explained, adding that it’s just a small number of areas in the state that reportedly deal with it.
State Board of Elections spokesman Pat Gannon similarly reported only minor issues from polling sites Tuesday. All issues were addressed, but the State Board will meet at 5:00 p.m. today to consider extending voting hours in Bertie County after there was a temporary disruption from a printer setup problem.
Other than that, Gannon said, as of midday that there hadn’t been anything out of the ordinary for a primary election.
Anti-Trump sentiment in Durham
In Durham, precincts along the N.C. 54 corridor were doing brisk business early Tuesday.
Voters, some with young children in tow, scrambled to find parking spaces so they could cast votes in what some described as one of the most important primary elections in recent memory.
Many in the largely progressive city took aim at President Donald Trump, saying their prime motivation is to see him voted out of office.
“Really, one of the big things is voting for the strongest candidate to get Donald Trump out of office,” said Mark Cromwell, who arrived at the Southwest Regional Library in Durham at around 8:30 a.m., with daughter, 20-month-old Lilly Rose.
Turning to local politics, Cromwell noted a “lot of disingenuous politics” being played by some Durham candidates and their handlers.
Durham’s crowded county commissioner’s race has been especially contentious. County Manager Wendell Davis accused Commissioner Heidi Carter of racist behavior. The charge, which Carter denies, could impact the contest for five commissioner seats.
Cromwell said health care and other kitchen table issues would also be on his mind as he prepared to vote.
“These days, a lot of people are pretending to be progressives but when the rubber hits the road, they say one thing and do another,” he said. “So, that will be a big factor in my voting today.”
Cherry Byers was also among the voters who arrived at Southwest Regional Library early Tuesday.
Like Cromwell, Byers said voting for the Democratic candidate she believes has the best chance to unseat Trump was the top priority.
“No. 1 is getting a really good president for this country and taking the current one out,” Byers said.
She said health care, education, equal pay for women and affordable childcare would also factor in her decision-making.
Across town at James E. Shepard Magnet Middle School, Miguel Staten expressed disappointment at the low turnout.
“I think it’s slow because people aren’t paying attention,” Staten said. “This is very important because we definitely have to get a new president. Americans, both Black and white, can’t take this [the Trump administration] any longer.”
Shortly after 10 a.m., fewer than 150 people had voted in the largely Black and Hispanic precinct with 1,200 registered voters. Roughly 150 people had cast early votes, a precinct worker said.
Lacy Smith arrived at Shepard thinking about the experience of the candidates, particularly those in the presidential race.
“I’m thinking about what’s best for the country, is what candidates have shown already,” Smith said. “Their record on what they have done is most important to me.”
Smith volunteered that he planned to vote for former vice president Joe Biden because he’s an experienced politician who’s spent time in the White House.
“I’m not ashamed to say I don’t have any feelings for Donald Trump,” Smith said. “I think he’s done the country a disservice by even being in the White House. What I’ve seen, coming through the 1960s and 1970s, we don’t need to go back. If he stays in there, that’s exactly where he’s going to take us.”
Several other voters expressed similar sentiments later in the morning at the Durham County Agricultural Building on Foster Street.
“We just need to be done with Donald Trump, and that’s what it comes down to,” said Katherine Maehl.
The 38-year-old said she was excited to vote for Bernie Sanders.
Emma Thompson, 26, said she was casting a ballot to make her voice and those of others who couldn’t vote be heard. Her husband is an immigrant who can’t yet vote.
“I’ve always had a big passion for voting and being a good citizen,” she said.
She added that she voted for more women to take office and to change the current conservative viewpoints across the political arena.
New momentum for Biden?
A rainy morning in Greensboro led to light voting at several polling sites in the early hours Tuesday. But Michael Hufham beat the rush and voted before work at the Newlyn Street United Methodist Church.
Though he voted Democratic last time around, Hufham said he wanted to give Donald Trump a chance when he was elected. After four years, he said, he’s going with the candidate who has the best chance to prevent another four years of Trump.
“I’m voting for Joe Biden,” said Hufham, 59. “I think Bernie’s a good guy but maybe a little too extreme for most people. I think Biden has the best chance to beat Trump and the country has just got to get back on track.”
In the days since the South Carolina primary, Hugham said, he’s been glad to see Democrats begin to coalesce around Biden as candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have dropped out and endorsed the former vice president.
At the Tarboro Road Community Center in Raleigh, the Biden sentiment was also strong. Students from nearby St. Augustine’s University, a private HBCU, held a march to the polls Tuesday led by their marching band.
Biden spoke at the school last week as part of a campaign swing through North Carolina. Students, many of whom carried “Black Votes Matter” placards during the march, said that retail politics touch made the difference for them.
“Honestly, after I saw Joe Biden – because he came to the school last Saturday – I forgot about everyone else,” said Sky’Lynn Wiggins, a freshman at St. Augustine’s.
Tuesday was Wiggins’ first vote. Choosing a presidential candidate wasn’t easy, she said, but Biden made it clear that HBCUs will be a priority for him should he become president.
Denarius Guy, a junior at the school, also said he’d be voting for Biden.
“I was going through who to vote for, him or Bernie Sanders, and it was 50-50 for me,” Guy said. “I made my decision when I got here.”
A lot of young people are making their decision based on who their friends are voting for, Guy said.
“I think it’s about who’s going to benefit us the most,” Guy said.
Chris Ingram, chapter president for St. Augustine’s College Democrats, was handing out literature outside the polling place Tuesday.
“We can make a huge impact,” Ingram said. “It’s our voices that need to be heard. Even though this is a primary election, right here in Raleigh we have to hold our elected officials accountable. We need our voices to be heard and legislation to be passed on our behalf. A lot of students at St. Augustine’s know that’s imperative.”
Melissa Boughton, Greg Childress and Joe Killian contributed to this report.