Democrats in Forsyth and Guilford counties are heading to the polls for early voting in the run-up to the March 15 primary in heavier numbers than their Republican counterparts, according to numbers released by local election officials.
Of 16,445 ballots cast in Forsyth County since early voting began last week, registered Democrats have been responsible for 44.1 percent of them — a couple percentage points above the party’s share of all registered voters in the county. That’s compared to 26.4 percent of ballots cast by Republicans compared to their 31.1-percent share of the county’s electorate.
Similarly, in Guilford County, 53.2 percent of early voters are Democrats, while only 46.7 percent of the electorate is registered Democrats. Republicans’ share of the early voting electorate — 28.9 percent — roughly matches their 27.1 percent portion of the electorate.
Myra Hudspeth Slone, who chairs the Guilford County Democratic Party, noted that Democrats typically vote at higher rates in early voting in North Carolina. She characterized turnout as “low” in a Facebook message, adding that she hopes “March 15 will be busy.”
Bob Hall, executive director of the nonpartisan election watchdog group Democracy North Carolina, said he doesn’t “get the sense that there’s a lot of energy” on the Democratic side of the ballot.
The two urban Triad counties diverge in the behavior of unaffiliated voters. In Guilford County, unaffiliated voters have claimed a 17.7 percent share of early-voting ballots, compared to their 25.7 percent portion of the electorate. In contrast, unaffiliated voters have cast 29.3 percent — more than registered Republicans — of the ballots in Forsyth County, while comprising only 26.3 percent of the electorate. Even more surprising in an election in which white nationalist/populist Donald Trump is supposed to be bringing new voters into the Republican Party, the numbers released by the Forsyth County Board of Elections today show unaffiliated voters requesting to vote in the Democratic primary over the Republican ballot by a factor of almost three to one.
Bryan Wilson, a 43-year-old factory laborer who lives outside of Walkertown, is one of the unaffiliated voters who is participating in the Democratic primary. He found out about Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders on Facebook, and decided to volunteer with the campaign in Winston-Salem. He spent a day canvassing for the candidate and uses Facebook to reach out to family and friends to spread the word.
Sanders’ “ideas of changing the current system to give people from lower-income backgrounds fighting chance” attracted him to the candidate, Wilson said.
“I support Obamacare; I don’t think it went far enough,” Wilson added. “Universal healthcare’s going to be the only comprehensive solution in a nation the size of ours. Healthcare’s a big issue with me. Extending education and allowing people the free or lower-cost education so they can earn a higher wage [is also important].”
Wilson said he earned $9.50 an hour as a factory laborer with Atrium Windows, but had to take time out from work in October because of a heart condition. He’s hoping to go back to work soon. Wilson cited the deterioration of wages as another motivating factor in his electioneering efforts.
“With North Carolina being a right-to-work state, nobody can make it,” he said. “For factory production and assembly workers in North Carolina, 10 dollars an hour is a high-paying job. Most are paying eight or nine dollars an hour. That’s what a large percentage of the workforce makes. My wife’s been a CNA for 20 years; she’s still making eight dollars an hour. The average house payment’s 600 to 800 per month. It doesn’t add up.”