The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday January 22nd

Orange County Participation Reflects Heightened Interest

Of all local parties, the Reform Party showed perhaps the greatest democratic spirit Tuesday with perfect attendance of voters at the polls.

All of the party's registered voters cast ballots on Election Day.

All two of them.

But the high proportional turnout among the Reformers was indicative of heightened interest across the board in this year's election.

According to the Orange County Board of Elections, about 54 percent of registered voters cast ballots, as opposed to 46 percent in 1996, making for long lines at many polling places.

Mary Andrews, a Chapel Hill resident, said she thinks voting is an important chance to take advantage of living in a democracy. "I'm aware that there are people around the world who yearn to have the right to vote," she said. "This is an opportunity we should never take for granted."

Of all registered voters, 34 percent showed up at the Westwood precinct, 30 percent at Greenwood, 29 percent at Fetzer Gym and 27 percent at the Lincoln precinct.

The Weaver Dairy precinct recorded the highest turnout in the county at 84 percent.

In Orange County, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in registered voters and in turnout percentage.

Of 51,733 registered Democrats, 29,633 voted, averaging a 57.3 percent turnout.

Of the 22,444 Republicans, 11,211 voted, giving them a 50 percent turnout.

Unaffiliated voters, numbering 20,391, charted a 43 percent turnout countywide.

Homer Tapp of Chapel Hill said the county commissioners race was especially important to him.

"I'm born and raised in Orange County," he said. "The commissioners can make a big difference in the lives of farmers and landowners here."

Tapp's polling site, Coles Store at 6407 Union Grove Church Road, was one of the 15 precincts in Orange County to serve more than 1,100 voters.

"I went to vote at 10 a.m. but left because the lines were too long," he said. "I came back later and things had died down a bit."

People who were new to the area or who had recently moved within Orange County might have encountered some difficulty finding their polling sites.

Cass Swing, who recently moved to Chapel Hill, said someone from the community called her at home last night to tell her where her polling site was.

"Without that call, I wouldn't have known where to go," she said.

But voting was not as easy for Carisa Showden, a graduate student in political science.

She said she had to spend about an hour looking on the map for the White Cross Recreational Center, her precinct.

"I finally found it," she said. "I voted in the morning, and I'm going to be glued to my television until the (presidential race) results are posted."

The issues at stake in the elections convinced Orange County resident Shawn Hamner that voting was essential.

"I thought this was one of the most crucial elections in recent history," he said. "It's great to make people know it's important to vote."

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.


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