NC Primary Elections Draw Criticism for Poor Voter Education, Engagement Despite Record Turnout

Polling stations opened in Asheville and Buncombe County for the North Carolina Presidential Preference Primary and other statewide primary elections on March 15 after a record-breaking period of early voting.

One Asheville resident electioneering outside the polling station at North Buncombe Elementary said she believes the national election, in particular, has inspired widespread voter participation.

“You really have people, I think, scared of what might actually go down if they don’t get out and vote,” said Christine Aiken, “and I think fear is a giant motivator.”

According to records from the Buncombe County Election Services, a total of 31,653 county residents voted during the eight-and-a-half day early voting period that ended Saturday. The early voting numbers represent a 42 percent increase over the 2012 primary and a 58 percent jump from the 2008 primary.

However, some Buncombe County residents expressed criticism despite increased voter turnout.

Joel Mazelis, a voting observer for the Democratic Party, said that voters need to be better educated about what to expect at polling stations regarding local elections.

“One of the things I noticed, not that I’m surprised, but a lot of these people, younger people, got ballots and they thought just the presidential election would be on it,” said Mazelis, “And they see all these candidates and they have no idea who to vote for.” 

One precinct official at the North Windy Ridge School polling location in Weaverville added that civic engagement extends beyond simply voting. 

Chief Judge Melody Koebernik said it’s important for people to be involved in all aspects of the election process. According to Election Services of Buncombe County, the organization needs hundreds of people to man the election voting locations – asking voters for their name and address, operating the election voting machines and helping voters to cast to their vote.

“It’s my way of giving back to my country,” Koebernik said.

Information about elections results and opportunities for involvement are available through the Buncombe County Election Services website.