North Carolina voters in 11 counties were mistakenly given ballots without the Amendment 1 referendum Tuesday. And an Alamance County church that is also a polling place banned campaign signs but instructed voters via its outdoor marquee to vote "for" the amendment "per God's word."
Those were the most pressing issues reported to the Election Protection Hotline, five phones at the UNC School of Law that rang from the early morning until the polls closed at 7:30 p.m.
Elizabeth Haddix, a staff attorney with the UNC Center for Civil Rights who supervised the hotline, said volunteers fielded issues across the state. Most of the confusion concerned ballots designated for 17-year-old voters who were eligible because they will turn 18 before the November general election. They were allowed to vote on races that will be decided in the fall, but not on the amendment, because that vote is final now. Yet poll workers handed ballots without the amendment to voters older than 18 in Cleveland, Chatham, Dare, Orange, Guilford, Transylvania, Pitt, Forsyth, Mecklenburg and Wake counties, according to hotline calls.
"There are so many different ballots out there that it's certainly reasonable to assume it was confusion or oversight or lack of training," Haddix said, but she added that there were cases where it wasn't clear why the wrong ballots were distributed. "These are people who said, 'I'm a Democrat,' or 'I'm a Libertarian,' and they were given this ballot without the amendment on it. We don't have enough info to draw any conclusions."
Haddix added that the hotline received one report of a poll worker unaware of ballots earmarked for 17-year-olds. "That is kind of concerning," Haddix said.
Voters in the 11 affected counties were told to fill out provisional ballots.
As for the church, the People's Memorial Christian Church in Burlington proclaimed its support for Amendment 1 but did not allow politicians to post campaign signage outside the gym, where the polls were located.
Church officials did not allow politicians to post their signs because "after the election they don't take them down," said a person who answered the phone at the church. As for Amendment 1, the person said the church "was not approached" about the referendum.
Haddix said most calls weren't complaints; they were simple questions about where and how to vote.
"I don't think we anticipated this many calls," Haddix said. "Just being here has confirmed my belief in how important this program is to the voters of North Carolina." —Joe Schwartz
In a primary dominated by Amendment 1, the Democratic primary in N.C. House District 38 held some interest because it pitted a pair of African-American candidates against the only openly gay candidate on the ballot in Wake County. But it wasn't close. Yvonne Holley, a retired state employee with deep family ties in the African-American community of Southeast Raleigh, won easily, racking up 62 percent of the votes in partial results. Abeni El-Amin, the other black candidate, and N.C. State University education researcher Lee Sartain were running far behind in second and third place, respectively.
District 38 is another gerrymander special, a new district because of Wake's rapid growth, strung along the east side of Capital Boulevard and packed with as many Democratic voters as the Republican-led General Assembly could grab. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 4-to-1, and the district is 53 percent black and 18 percent Hispanic. So it was no surprise that no Republicans filed, making the Democratic victor a certain winner in November.
Many Wake County Republicans were called—or they heard a call, anyway—but the question was how many would be chosen to run for higher office by the North Carolina GOP. And, of course, and how many would no longer be gumming up progress in Wake County.
Wake Commissioners Paul Coble and Tony Gurley; the trio of Wake school board members Debra Goldman, Chris Malone and John Tedesco; and former Wake Commissioner Kenn Gardner all aspired to federal or state positions of greater glory—and pay.
So, too, did former U.S. Attorney George Holding, who doesn't need the pay, and retired Navy veteran Bill Randall, who's already drawing a federal pension.
The marquee matchup was for Congress in the 13th congressional district, a collection of voting precincts from Raleigh east that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the current 13th now represented by Democrat Brad Miller.
The district was so totally redrawn by the Republican-led General Assembly that Miller is retiring from Congress, and the 13th is all but conceded to whoever wins the GOP primary.
Three Republicans took a shot: Coble, a nephew of the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms; Holding, who hails from a very wealthy family and used to work for Helms; and Randall, a tea party favorite who ran against Miller in 2010 but was overshadowed by Coble and Holding this time.
The winner: Not clear. Holding was slightly ahead in early returns, and just above the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. Coble was about seven points behind, with Randall pulling a respectable 21 percent.
Gurley, meanwhile, sought to jump from his commissioner's post to the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. In a five-way primary, he was in a three-way race early on to make it into what seemed certain to be a two-person runoff.
Goldman, off her two-year stint on the school board, fancied herself the next state auditor. In a five-way GOP primary for the right to take on Democrat incumbent Beth Wood, Goldman also looked like she might get into a runoff, perhaps against former state Sen. Fern Shubert, a certified public accountant from Union County with a well-deserved reputation as a political watchdog.
Similarly, Tedesco sought to turn his two years on the school board into being elected state superintendent of public instruction. He, too, found himself in a five-way primary, with the winner to challenge incumbent Democrat June Atkinson. In the early going, Tedesco was in the lead, but far short of the 40 percent needed to win outright.
Meanwhile, board member Malone, who lives in Wake Forest, looked like he would win in his head-to-head race against Wendell businessman Duane Cutlip for the GOP nomination in state House District 35. The district was gerrymandered so thoroughly for the Republicans that no Democrats filed.
And who better to be state Secretary of State than Kenn Gardner, who was a Wake County Commissioner until he lost his seat in the 2008 election. Gardner, an architect, was accused then of using his office to push a project without disclosing his role as its paid architect. In a comeback try against three Republican opponents, Gardner was running second and looking like he'd be in runoff. The winner will go against Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall. — Bob Geary
Too early to tell: The question on many Durham voters' minds Tuesday night was: How will Southern Durham Development's (SDD) injection of $54,000 to a SuperPAC on behalf of four Durham Commissioners affect the race?
SDD funded the Durham Partnership for Progress, a local SuperPAC, to advocate for incumbents Michael Page, Joe Bowser and Brenda Howerton, who voted to approve SDD's 751 South development, and challenger Rickey Padgett, who supports the project.
You'll hear no Dewey beats Truman predictions here, but with more than half the votes counted at 9:18 p.m., that money, which funded the mailing of at least 70,000 campaign flyers, had appeared to have bought just two seats.
Five seats were up for election: Longtime incumbent Ellen Reckhow, who voted against the project, led with 22,351 votes, followed by Fred Foster Jr. (21,049) and Wendy Jacobs (20,737). Howerton had 14,970 votes and Page had 14,527, although there was much grappling all evening long for the fourth and fifth spots.
Bowser was a distant seventh and Padgett an even more distant 10th in a field of 14.
If the results hold, the previous board majority supported by SDD has been dismantled.
In the other Durham race to watch, State Senate District 22, Durham City Councilman Mike Woodard and local attorney Kerry Sutton were neck-and-neck in early voting, with Sutton leading by a 51–48 margin. However, later in the evening, Woodard was carrying Durham by a gap of 73–26. The district includes Durham, Person and Caswell counties. —Lisa Sorg
Orange County residents ousted several incumbents Tuesday night as District 1 challengers Mark Dorosin and Penny Rich and District 2's Renee Price won their respective county commissioner races, according to unofficial results.
Pam Hemminger of District 1 and Steve Yuhasz of District 2 failed to hold their seats.
District 1 includes Chapel Hill and Carrboro; District 2 is composed of the rest of Orange County.
Dorosin won more than 35 percent of the vote, followed by Rich, who had 33.1 percent; Hemminger trailed with 31.2 percent.
In District 2, Price won by a 2–1 margin over Yuhasz.
Dorosin and Rich face no competition in November. As for Price, she faces Republican challenger Chris Weaver in the fall.
Incumbents also carried the Orange Board of Education: Stephen Halkiotis, Tony McKnight and Lawrence Sanders, who finished in that order.
Tommy McNeill did not actively campaign, and it showed.
Commissioner Valerie Foushee, who currently serves in District 1, won her statehouse primary over Travis Phelps. Foushee is seeking the District 50 seat. Foushee handily carried the district in both Orange and Durham counties.
Seventy-nine percent of Orange County voters cast ballots against Amendment 1.
Orange residents cast 16,567 ballots during early, one-stop voting at five sites. All told, 45,855 ballots were cast, meaning 43.6 percent of registered voters turned out. —Joe Schwartz