Catawba County poll workers assist voters checking in at the Highland Recreation Center in Hickory during the March 5, 2024, primary election. Melissa Sue Gerrits / Wmforo Credit: Melissa Sue Gerrits

North Carolina primary voters cast Election Day ballots at polling places across the state on Tuesday, expressing a range of strong reasons for selecting or opposing various candidates for local, state and federal offices.

In the first hours of voting, the turnout was light but steady. However, it often picked up as the day continued.

Only four voters had cast ballots at C.C. Spaulding Elementary in Durham by 7 a.m., but around 7:20 more started to arrive and even had to compete for limited parking.

“Usually with the primary, voter turnout is kind of low but given the ferocity of politics I’m expecting a higher turnout once the weather gets better this morning,” said Casimir Brown, 71, the chief judge in precinct 10 in Durham County.

Precinct Chief Judge Casimir Brown, 71, outside Durham's C.C. Spaulding Elementary School polling site on election morning, March 5, 2024. Mehr Sher / Wmforo

The same was true across town at KIPP Durham College Prep School. Talking with Wmforo shortly after 8 a.m., precinct chief judge Alfreda Gentry described turnout as relatively light, but didn’t expect that to stick.

“I’m predicting a great turnout later as the weather gets better,” Gentry said, who had counted 18 voters so far there.

By mid-morning, turnout had grown to create a short line at Bethesda Elementary in Durham. “The last count I turned in to the (Board of Elections) was 88 ballots around 10 a.m. and I take the count every hour from the tabulator,” said Marie Bush, 82, the chief judge at Bethesda.

Democratic Party greeters on March 5, 2024, outside the Orange Grove polling place southwest of Hillsborough in Orange County. From left, Jennifer Hancock, Heiderese Kobor and Maggie Sloane. Frank Taylor / Wmforo

In adjacent Orange County, voter turnout by midmorning at the rural Orange Grove precinct outside Hillsborough, was “light but steady,” according to Heiderese Kobor, a Democratic Party greeter.

She credited the light morning turnout to the tendency of Democratic voters, who predominate in Orange County, to vote early rather than on Election Day. 

In Wake County, voting was relatively modest and steady throughout the morning, including at Poe Elementary where chief judge Joyce Davis described 30 voters by mid-morning.

A line of primary voters winds through the hallway and out the door at Chatham Health Sciences Center near Pittsboro in Chatham County around 11:30 a.m. on March 5, 2024. Frank Taylor / Wmforo

However, at least one site, at Chatham Health Sciences Center near Pittsboro in Chatham County, had a voter line winding through the building and out the door around 11:30 a.m.

The newly created precinct serves a fast-growing area.

Turnout was also quite strong by mid-afternoon southeast of the Triangle in fast-growing Angier, in northern Harnett County. As of 2 p.m., Harnett County had 5,773 votes according to the county board of elections.

However, in some precincts the turnout remained steady but slow throughout the day. That included at Old Bushy Fork School in Hurdle Mills, a Person County polling place where just 201 ballots had been cast by 1 p.m., according to precinct chief judge Cynthia Lynch.

The pace was a bit faster across Person County at Old Helena School, where chief judge Lois Cameron reported 580 ballots cast by 3 p.m.

What motivates voters

For many voters, the presidential contests are the most important motivating factor.

Linda Payne, voting at Fuquay-Varina High School in Wake County, said former President Donald Trump has her vote because he “isn’t perfect but he’s strong and determined.”

Fritz Kindsvatter, a registered Republican, said he only voted Republican to register an “anti-Trump” vote.

“I came to register my discontent with Donald Trump and his track record, behavior and indictments,” Kindsvatter said. “He’s an embarrassment on the international scene. I came to vote for Nikki Haley because I think she’s a bright, motivated and honest person.”

Fritz Kindsvatter, 82, cast his ballot through curbside voting at Bethesda Elementary School in Durham on March 5, 2024. Mehr Sher / Wmforo

Rex Young in Raleigh planned to vote for President Joe Biden as he heard about a larger movement to vote “uncommitted” or “no preference” instead, Young said.

Also in Raleigh, Maryellen Delaney, was an independent participating in the Republican primary, She said her vote for Haley is essentially a vote against Trump.

Connie Rodriguez, 59, in Raleigh said the country needs “a strong woman leader” and wanted to vote for Haley although she wasn’t optimistic Haley would win the primary.

“Leadership is a deciding factor for me in this election,” said Bradsher Bowling, 68, a retired forest ranger who voted at Old Bushy Fork School in Hurdle Mills. “Donald Trump is the perfect president, he can’t be bought, can’t be had and can’t be fooled.”

Elliott Crews, 65, said he’s a regular voter and was worried about the threat of authoritarianism to the country’s democracy. Some may think of Biden as old, he said, but the president is a “steady hand,” the Harnett County voter said at his Lillington polling place.

Some voters were strongly moved by particular issues, which sometimes were crucial in which candidates they would support or oppose.

Nate Barilich, 31, in Raleigh, said as a gay man and educator, he would be voting against Republican candidate Mark Robinson. He also said the legislature’s decisions about public schools affected his everyday life as a teacher.

Robinson’s lack of support for LGBTQ people and other views are alarming, said Susan Stone.

Jim Foster said the politicization of law enforcement was worrisome to him, and the country would be “better off” under Trump.

Pat Lynn, part of the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association, handed out flyers with the association’s endorsements at the Poe Street Magnet School polling place in Raleigh.

She said as a senior citizen dependent on Social Security, it’s important to her that whoever is in office keeps that secure.

Pat Lynn, part of the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association, hands out flyers with the group's endorsements at Poe Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh. Grace Vitaglione / Wmforo

Susie Brunson, 85, of Durham, is retired and used to work at a laboratory at Duke University. “We need good leaders because of the condition of the world today,” she said, as she exited the KIPP Durham College Prep Public School voting site. The issue that concerns her most is gun violence, Brunson said.

In Harnett County, Angier voter Debra Satterfield, 71, said inflation needs to be brought down.

Also in Angier, Katie Simpson, said inflation and the border mattered most to her. Simpson said she is excited about Trump and U.S. House NC District 13 congressional candidate Fred Von Canon.

The border and the economy were important, decisive issues to voter, Judy Dorton, 75, who also cast her ballot at the Old Helena School in Timberlake in Person County.

Harnett County voter Kris West, 33, said grocery costs were too high because of inflation, as he cast his ballot in Lillington.

While Holly Blanton in Raleigh said she’s most excited about gubernatorial candidate Josh Stein, two issues – abortion rights and the environment – are of great importance to her.

Volunteers at the Brown Penn Center wait for Catawba County voters during the beginning hours of Election Day in Hickory, on March 5, 2024. Melissa Sue Gerrits / Wmforo Credit: Melissa Sue Gerrits

Joy Caracciolo, 31, voted at Bethesda Elementary School in Durham. She does public relations for a tech company and wants to make sure that through her vote she can support the right candidates who will protect LGBTQ rights and improve education and housing.

Education spending and economics go hand in hand for Keisha Steadman, 47, who has worked for Harnett County Schools for more than 20 years. Better pay and retaining public school teachers is the main issue for Steadman, she said as she cast her vote in Lillington.

Teenechia Woodward, 49, a project manager for a utility company, said reproductive rights influenced how she voted in the primary in Durham. 

Chelsie Long, 33, a lactation expert, said she voted in the primary because she worries about the issues that will affect her children.

“Issues like women’s reproductive rights, environment and climate change influenced my vote,” said the mother of two children as she voted at the Hurdle Mills polling place in Person County.

Orange County voter Connie Shuping inserts her ballot into the machine in Carrboro on March 5, 2024. Frank Taylor / Wmforo

Several voters at Angier Elementary School in Harnett County said their top issue was women’s reproductive rights. Reneé Baldwin said as a nurse for 35 years, she was concerned about women’s health care choices being taken away.

Angier voter Pam Morgan, 72, said she’s been fighting for women’s rights since 1970.

Taxes and the cost of living motivated James Villa, 43, a business owner, to cast his ballot in the primary in Timberlake in Person County, he said.

John Huftell, a first time voter at Western Harnett High School in Lillington, said he had recently graduated from the high school. Illegal immigration was his top issue, he said.

For other voters, state and local races are among the most important reasons for going out to vote.

“I voted to keep things progressing in Durham in education, public safety and parks and recreation for the kids,” said Randolph Segars, 54, a resident of Durham who works at Duke University.

Chatham County voter Beth Hunt inserts her primary election ballot into the voting machine at Chatham Health Sciences Center near Pittsboro on March 5, 2024, as poll worker Jeff Barnett looks on. Frank Taylor / Carolina Public Press

The state superintendent of public instruction race was important to Camille Seronce, voting in Fuquay-Varina. She said she liked candidate Maurice “Mo” Green because of his educational background and focus on diversity.

Lucy Kindsvatter voted in the primary in Durham to show support for two Democratic candidates, she said. “At this point in time, political party affiliation matters more, unfortunately,” she said, “but the two parties don’t play nice.”

For Person County voter George O'Neal, 42, a farmer, disgust with how the national parties have handled important issues makes state and local elections all the more important.

For O’Neal the issues that influenced his vote are “the environment and the genocide in Gaza, which is a dealbreaker,” he said. “Neither party really seems to carry my issues, so I’m only interested in local and state level candidates.”

C.J. Mettes, 85, a retired French teacher, campaigns for Republican candidates outside Old Helena School in Timberlake in Person County on March 5, 2024. Mehr Sher / Wmforo

In Hillsborough, Democratic electioneer Kobor said voters were strongly motivated by the school board race there, which pits two three-person slates of candidates against one another in the nonpartisan race. 

Unlike most races in North Carolina, nonpartisan school board races will be decided today and not appear on November ballots.

Ray Rogers, 68, campaigned at the polling place in Hurdle Mills for Sherry Wilborn for Person County commissioner. “I think we’ve had more voters than usual because people want change,” he said.

Electioneers talk with Harnett County voters outside Angier Elementary School on March 5, 2024. Grace Vitaglione / Wmforo

Some just wanted to pick the best candidates possible across the board. 

“I usually vote early but couldn’t this year. It was smooth for me and it was my first time voting since they started using voter IDs,” said Stevenson Hicks, 59, of Durham. “There is turmoil in this city and the nation and I want to vote for better representation for people.”

Durham voter Bryson Boston, 69, is retired and worked in information technology in RTP for 40 years. He said he believes it’s his civic duty to vote in all elections and has been raised to do so. “I don’t want someone untrustworthy or deceitful in power,” he said.

Rachel Mauchline, 26, also cast her ballot at the KIPP Durham College Prep School polling site. She teaches speech and debate to middle schoolers and high schoolers. “I just think change is always important and we need to vote in elected leaders who care about as many constituents as possible,” Mauchline said.

Burke County voters mark their ballots at the Longview Recreation Center in Hickory on March 5, 2024. Melissa Sue Gerrits / Wmforo Credit: Melissa Sue Gerrits

Ease of voting

Many voters expressed concern about changes to the voting process, though few described problems during voting Tuesday.

“It was a very easy voting process,” said Natalie Feldman, 24, of Durham, who works at a startup biotech company in RTP. “Some of the things that candidates mention like election integrity and the importance of voter ID to make things more secure are important issues to me.”

At the Old Helena School polling site in Timberlake in Person County, a large influx of voters were entering and leaving the voting enclosure Tuesday afternoon. Even so, lines were not long and moved quickly. Most voters Wmforo spoke to there said it took them 4 to 6 minutes to complete the process.

Charles Petite, 50, a cost analyst for Duke Energy who voted at Bethesda Elementary School in Durham, said the voting process was seamless and only took seven minutes even with the new voter ID requirement.

Orange County poll worker Margo MacIntyre assists voter Gracie B. Webb with curbside voting in Carrboro on March 5, 2024. Frank Taylor / Wmforo

But others found the process more time-consuming. The Kindsvatters cast their ballots through curbside voting at Bethesda Elementary School. They said curbside voting was a slow process and took 20 to 25 minutes.

In Raleigh, Charles George, 57, said he was a lifelong Republican who only saw “a couple non-crazy people” on the ballot. He said since Voter IDs are required, people should be able to obtain free IDs to make voting more accessible.

Some voters expressed frustration with the voter ID requirement, including 25 year old Caroline Anderson, in Raleigh, who said voting access is important to her. Raleigh voter Greg Malhoit said he was “upset” about the requirement because it discourages people from voting who find it harder to get an ID.

“It’s wrong and an infringement to need an ID to vote but not to get a gun,” said Person County voter O’Neal.

But Sheila Huftell, voting at Western Harnett High School, sees voter fraud as a major problem. If the election is stolen, she said, “there will be a revolution.”

Editor's note: Mehr Sher, Grace Vitaglione and Frank Taylor contributed to this report.

A voter shows her “I voted” sticker as she exits the KIPP Durham College Prep Public School polling site in precinct 18 in Durham on primary Election Day, March 5, 2024. Mehr Sher / Wmforo

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