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Orange County sees increase in newly registered voters

Orange County has recently experienced a surge in new voter registrations as North Carolina’s primary approaches.

Orange County has recently experienced a surge in new voter registrations as North Carolina’s primary approaches.

UNC graduate Gerry Cohen said he has been keeping track of voter registration numbers in Orange County for years.

Based on statistics released by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Cohen said he has tracked this year’s new voter registration numbers and found them to be unusually high.

“This year, there has been over 1,400 new voter registrations from ages 17 to 25 in the five dorm precincts of Mason Farm, Country Club, Greenwood, Lincoln and East Franklin,” Cohen said. “This is exceptionally high for registrations.”

Cohen said this year’s surge might be attributed to candidates like Bernie Sanders or pushback from Democratic voters over voter ID laws.

UNC junior and president of UNC College Republicans Frank Pray said his organization has been encouraging all of its members to register to vote in Orange County, especially if they come from strong, Republican home districts, because their votes are needed more in Orange County — a traditionally Democratic district.

While Pray said he has not noticed any unusual increases in voter registrations among College Republicans members this year, he said the Orange County Republican Party as a whole has noticed a greater number of voter registrations in rural areas of the county.

“Throughout Orange County, we have seen more people coming out to vote, especially from rural areas of the county, like the outskirts of Hillsborough,” Pray said.

Pray said College Republicans often tries to encourage its own ranks to vote first when trying to increase voter registration throughout campus.

Laura Wenzel, a volunteer for the nonpartisan voter education and registration program You Can Vote, said registering to vote has become more difficult recently, which makes aiding in voting registration even more important.

“The N.C. legislature has systematically made it more difficult to vote, which is why it’s so important to have well-trained volunteers who can help citizens exercise their right to vote,” Wenzel said. “You Can Vote started providing training and up-to-date information to our volunteers in 2012, and our data shows that the voters we registered have a greater turnout than voters who were not registered by us.”

With almost 6,700 new registered voters, Cohen says this year is one of the highest in new voter registration for Orange County. He said with same-day registration taken into account, this year could set a record.

“We don’t know the final tally because of same-day registration. When that is taken into consideration, this year could be a record-high year for voter turnout,” he said.


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