SILER CITY — Thanks to nearly two years of pandemic and Census-related delays, Siler City voters now have the odd opportunity to cast their ballots for the municipal elections in an even year.
It’s a situation that has some election veterans, including Chatham County Elections Director Pandora Paschal, wondering how many might turn out.
“This is the first time since I have worked in elections that we have conducted a municipal election during a primary,” Paschal told the News + Record. She’s been overseeing elections since 2004.
Normally, she added, municipal general elections take place in odd years and attract fewer voters. Not all residents with Siler City addresses may vote in municipal elections either; only those who live within town limits may vote, which cuts eligible Siler City voters in half.
“The only thing that I’ve seen that maybe could drive out more voters for the town would be that it is in a primary election,” Paschal said. “A primary is usually still not a really busy election, but that may bring out more people than normally would vote in a municipal election.”
To put things into perspective, the News + Record analyzed Siler City municipal voter turnout from 2009 to 2019, as well as voter history statistics from 2015 to 2019, using the Chatham County Board of Elections’ digital election results and voter statistics.
Here’s what we found.
On average, less than a fourth of eligible Siler City voters cast ballots in a municipal election between 2009 and 2019.
From 2009 and 2019, Siler City held six municipal elections, all in early November. Of all six, the 2015 election saw the lowest turnout — 18.4% of registered voters, or 568 residents — while the 2009 election saw the highest at 27.9%, or 787 voters, followed by the 2017 election at 26.9%, or 870 voters.
No municipal election between 2009 and 2019 saw more than 900 voters participate, and some commissioner races — especially uncontested elections — received fewer than 100 votes altogether. Eligible municipal voters between 2009 and 2019 ranged from just over 2,800 voters to just under 3,300.
If you voted in Siler City’s municipal elections within the last seven years, chances are that you’re white, female and a registered Democrat.
According to voter history statistics from the 2015, 2017 and 2019 municipal elections, more female voters consistently turned out than male voters, though not by a large margin — often less than 10%. Around 60% of voters in all three elections tended to identify as white, 26% to 37% were Black, and 3% to 6% self-identified as American Indian, multi-race or “other.”
Between 55% and 71% of municipal voters were registered Democrats, and 17% to 25% identified as Republican. From 2015 to 2019, however, the share of Democratic voters dropped some 15 percentage points while unaffiliated voters grew from 13% in 2015 to 20% in 2019.
This year, Siler City voters will choose for a new mayor, commissioner at-large and commissioners for districts 1, 2 and 5. Only one race — Siler City’s District 2 Commissioner seat, held by Norma Boone — is uncontested. Boone’s term doesn’t expire until 2023, when the town will next hold elections.
Voter registration data from the Chatham County Board of Elections shows that Siler City has 6,816 registered voters across its two precincts — West Siler City (85) and East Siler City (ESC114) — as of Tuesday morning. These voters carry two designations: active and inactive, meaning voters haven’t cast ballots for at least the past two federal election cycles. According to voter registration data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, 6,073 of these Siler City voters were “active” and 741 were “inactive” as of May 7, when the state last updated the data.
Of all 6,816 voters, however, only residents who live within the municipal limits of the town can vote in town elections, which includes 3,380 people, as of Tuesday morning. All 3,380 may vote for mayor and the at-large commissioner up for reelection this year, but only just under 500 may participate in Siler City’s District 1 commissioner race, while just over 600 may cast ballots in the District 5 race.
In 2017, District 1 and 5 commissioner candidates Tony Siler and Lewis Fadely received 49 and 119 votes respectively. Both races were uncontested. The mayoral race between John Grimes and Albert Reddick drew 867 voters, while the three-way race for commissioner at-large drew 856 voters.
No mayoral or commissioner at-large race between 2009 and 2019 dipped below 500 votes or shot above 900.
Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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