Friday was the deadline to register to vote in North Carolina. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the state's new voting law to be in place, eliminating same-day registration in the days before the election. In response, some groups increased their voter registration efforts. The Durham Board of Elections has been getting so many registrations that they doubled their staff from six to 12.
Judy Harwood usually works at the front desk, but the other day she was typing up names and addresses in an overflow room in the back of the building.
"We're kind of switching back and forth a little bit to give each other rest," Harwood said. "Your muscles get tired, your back gets sore, your hands, you know, need a little bit of relief."
As of early October, about 108,000 people registered statewide this year, which is higher than the 2010 mid-term election in which 90,000 registered.
Even so, 108,000 registrants is a lower number than registrations during presidential election years. For instance, in 2008, 422,000 people registered between January and early October.
In mid-term elections, even heated ones, you simply don't have the same interest level. That means the best informed, most motivated -- and angriest voters turn out.
"I think the question in this election is who's going to be madder," said Tom Eamon, a political science professor at East Carolina University, and author of The Making of a Southern Democracy. "Are the Republicans [angrier] because they are upset with the incumbent administration or will it be the Democrats because many Democrats are very angry at what is happening at the state level? They feel their agenda has suffered a set-back."
Liberal groups have been giving three reasons for signing up new voters:
- The Kay Hagan-Thom Tillis U.S. Senate race
- A few close N.C. General Assembly races
- The new voting law, which they say disenfranchises minority voters.
"If I hit you in your nose, your whole body's gonna feel it," said Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP. "They have done so much, they are so extreme, that there is no one reason that people are motivated, but the fact is that people are motivated."
Some conservative groups, such as the NC Family Policy Council, also do voter registration, but many focus on voter education.
"We believe there are a lot of voters here who don't agree with Hagan's extreme views on abortion and who will get out against her, if they just are aware," said Tami Fitzgerald, director of the Women Speak Out political action committee. "Our efforts have been geared more toward voter education than voter registration."
Back at the Durham County Board of Elections, they’ll be processing the back-log of voter registration forms for a few days. And they’ll be mailing out voter registration cards. The total number registered statewide will be available in a few weeks.
Now the groups who worked hard to get people signed up will turn their attention to getting them to actually show up and vote.