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Stories and features about North Carolina candidates, voters, and the politics of the 2014 mid-term elections. Polls are open across N.C. until 7:30 p.m. on election day, November 4.

Runoff Voters Get More "Bang For Their Buck"

A picture of an 'I Voted' sticker.
Vox Efx

Voters in 37 counties headed to the polls Tuesday to vote in second-primary – or runoff – elections. In North Carolina, a second primary is necessary when no candidate claims more than 40-percent of the first primary votes.

Joshua Lawson of the State Board of Elections said a bit more than 6 percent of eligible voters turned out. He says that's actually not bad for a runoff.

“This is the first race since 2006 where we have not had a statewide race, and therefore we have not had second primaries in all the counties. So it's a very high turnout for what it was,” Lawson said.

The stakes of the races might have been factors in the uptick. Beaufort County had both a Republican and Democratic runoff in the race for Sheriff.

Guildford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicott said a 5-percent turnout would have been average for a runoff in his county, but about 13-percent showed up to vote in the Sixth Congressional District's Republican runoff.

Baptist pastor Mark Walker pulled the upset in the 6th Congressional District Republican 'second-primary' when he beat Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Junior by a margin of about 6,000 votes.

State Elections Board spokesman Joshua Lawson said politicians focus intently on their strongest supporters during runoff elections.

“You see campaigns really, really pushing get-out-the-vote efforts and you don't see a lot of advertisement as things all kind of go internal, because you're really trying to get only a couple thousand people to the polls,” Lawson said.

By the same token, Lawson said runoff voters get “more bang for their buck” because individual votes have a stronger influence on the outcome.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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