Is one-stop favoring GOP?

Published 11:34 pm Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Staff Writer

White, Republican men make up the single biggest group marking ballots so far during the one-stop “early” voting period, according to Democracy North Carolina.
“They’re excited and motivated, more than any other group, to make themselves heard,” Bob Hall, director of Democracy North Carolina, told the Washington Daily News.
Opinions differed as to whether this group, the most reliable segment of the Republican constituency, symbolizes the “enthusiasm gap” rumored to be pushing President Barack Obama-friendly voters away from the polls in this important midterm election year, when numerous Democrats’ seats are in peril at the state legislative and congressional levels.
Nonetheless, it looked as if the GOP had the momentum in the early days of the one-stop absentee season.
“And they’re organized,” Hall added. “It’s not just spontaneous. The Republicans found themselves caught short in ’08. Their strategy had been to focus on Election Day, but the Democrats focused on early voting and had a tremendous lead going into Election Day.”
According to Hall’s organization, which advocates for more free and inclusive elections, county-by-county data show white, GOP-registered men to be “the largest group casting ballots” during “early voting,” which began Oct. 14 and ends Oct. 30.
“The Republicans have changed their strategy in 2010 and they have emphasized in their organizing and their messages and county meetings and so on that you need to treat Oct. 14th as Election Day, and every day thereafter until Nov. 2,” Hall commented.
Locally, the trend was a little less clear.
As of 2 p.m. Monday, 933 voters had taken advantage of one-stop ballot-marking in Beaufort County.
“Very heavy,” Kellie Harris Hopkins, elections director, said of turnout so far. “Heavier than we expected.”
Of that turnout number, by 1:56 p.m., 391 Democrats had voted, along with 323 Republicans and 210 unaffiliated voters.
Of those, 800 were white and 113 were black. Also, 448 were female voters, versus 473 male voters.
Women voters’ involvement isn’t fairly represented in these turnout figures, said Josie Hookway, office manager at the election-year headquarters of the Beaufort County Democratic Party.
“Women are heavily involved,” Hookway said. “I think it’s a very quiet movement.”
She said the party is conducting “phone banking,” with numerous female volunteers, calling people night after night in an attempt to motivate registered voters to vote Democratic.
Most voters seem receptive and “very respectful” in response to these calls, said Hookway, who added volunteers aren’t “getting people slamming the phone down on us.”
“I think the women are very engaged, particularly in Pitt and Beaufort County,” Hookway said.
Larry Britt, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, said he hadn’t read Democracy North Carolina’s report.
“With all the reports that you hear, if anybody’s fired up, it is Republicans,” Britt said. “Early voting has been something that we work on, and you never know if it works until it’s over with.”
The Rev. David Moore, a Democrat and former Beaufort County commissioner, cautioned against reading too much into the numbers at this point.
Yet, he acknowledged, “I really don’t think there’s been whole lot of enthusiasm” in the community.
“Not yet, anyway,” Moore said. “I think as it gets closer, but I don’t see a whole lot right now.”
Moore added voters in his neighborhood are “just burned out” on elections.
“It’s not a presidential election (year),” he pointed out.