Cover Story: Charlotte Primary Election

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte voters go to the polls in the city primary.  But turnout was one of the lowest in history.  In our Cover Story, PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson reports Tuesday's low turnout really hurts the process, and some say it costs a lot of money.

You might argue we didn't get our money's worth out of early voting.. let me show you what we're talking about.

To run Early Voting, it cost Mecklenburg county about 13-thousand dollars for the 2 and a half weeks.  You take the 677 who showed up that works out to costing us about 19-dollars for every vote cast.

Is there a better way?.. why the low turnout?

You've seen the signs.  Maybe seen some of the billboards around town.  There's an election in Charlotte.

But where are these?.. the long lines of Early Voting.. the six-hour waits we saw ten months ago?

This is what you would have seen had you voted early the last two weeks in the Charlotte City Primary.

Hardly a soul.. save a few poll workers.

677.. the worst early voting turnout since Mecklenburg county began No Excuses Voting in 2002.

Michael Dickerson is Mecklenburg Elections Director.

"I was expecting more simply because it got so interesting last year."

Early Voting broke records last year.

Overall turnout was the highest in history.

But the country was looking at its first African American president..

And presidential election years when we're also choosing a governor and other major races always garner more attention than off-year elections when we're trying to decide Charlotte city leaders.

"It's up to us to make sure we have them a place to vote.. it's up to the voters and candidates to get their folks out," says Dickerson.

It's not that it's a snoozer election.

Three Republicans are vying to be the party nominee for Mayor.. seeking Pat McCrory's seat.. who's retiring after 14 years.

14 candidates.. largest field in memory.. are running for City Council At-Large..

Seven Democrats and seven Republicans..

The top four in each party face off in the General Election.

And three City Council District races.. District one, two and five have competition in the Democratic party.

With no Republican opposition in November.. whoever wins today gets the office.

Meaning numbers like you'd see in an election for student government.... the few thousand voters who show up today carry a lot of weight.

Who's fault is it if no one's paying attention? the Media.. voters?

UNC Charlotte Professor Martha Kropf says one thing's certain.

She says, "Face to face contact with individuals increases the liklihood of voter mobilization. So when candidates get out there and press the flesh go out and shake hands and meet people they're going to show a great deal of interest."

With so few showing up.. is it time for Charlotte to do away with partisan elections.. that would eliminate need for a primary.

Or should the city consider combining the city races with the presidential election.. but that would create an incredibly long ballot.

The way it is now.. Charlotte has an election every year.

Why were Early Voting numbers so abysmal?

Blame it on budget cuts.. Mecklenburg county cut funding to the Board of Elections..

So instead of opening nine or ten sites for Early Voting.. they had only one location.. and the Early Voting numbers suffered.