Getting Voters Out in an Off-Year Election

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Organizers are hoping that the attention surrounding Tuesday’s elections will bring a higher voter turnout than in the 2009 off-cycle elections.

The Wake County turnout in the October 2009 election was 11.4 percent. By contrast, the last presidential election in 2008 brought 74.9 percent of Wake voters to the polls.

Jennifer Elmo, a Wake County Public School teacher and campaigner for school board candidate Jim Martin, said she thinks 2011 will be different than 2009. “People are paying attention to what’s going on. The negative publicity that we have had on a national level is making people think, ‘this does matter.’”

To inform voters of the October 11 election they have been distributing campaign fliers and signs. They also have held several phone banks.

“Seventy percent of people in Wake County don’t have students in public schools and they don’t think the election matters. It does matter, because the way we educate our children makes people want to move here,” Elmo said

Elmo said there has not been anything radically different on this campaign versus previous campaigns she has helped with.

While the Board of Education races have been stealing some of the spotlight, they are not the only race on the ballot.

Chris Sinclair, consultant for mayoral candidate Billie Redmond, has been using a combination of traditional and new modes to motivate voters.

“It’s a twenty first century campaign,” he said. “We’re using methods online that are both paid and free in a very quiet but direct way to reach voters.”

While he would not reveal the details of their strategy, he did say that it was a combination of social media websites and Google. “We’re using all the tools available to us,” he said.

Timur Ender, an assistant campaign manager for the transportation and housing bonds has been trying something new. He organized a series of bike rides to get students to participate in early voting. Originating from the N.C. State University Bell Tower, the rides end at the courthouse early voting site.

An avid cyclist himself, he hoped the rides would “get students more engaged and involved with what’s going on in Raleigh, since a lot of the things that happens at the municipal level have a direct impact on students.”

Unfortunately, no students showed up for the first scheduled ride Tuesday. Enders said he hopes turnout will be higher for the ride scheduled for Friday afternoon.

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