Runoff Voters Get More "Bang For Their Buck"

Jul 17, 2014

A higher percentage of voters than expected turned out to vote in second primaries across the state Tuesday.
Credit Vox Efx / Flickr

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.