Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A hint at how election day might go

Welcome to the Election Day version of O-pinion. I'm Peter St. Onge, associate editor of the O's editorial board, and I'll be your host today. We'll be keeping an eye on races here and far away, including a vote in another southern state that could impact North Carolina. More on that later.

But first, go vote.

Many of your fellow Charlotteans already have - 16,097, according to the Mecklenburg Board of Elections. That's a good deal less than the 22,505 the Observer reported as voting early in 2009, when Democrat Anthony Foxx won the mayoral race over Republican John Lassiter. In 2007, the number was 18,169.

In those numbers are some are some clues about how this day might turn out for candidates in city and Mecklenburg County races. Of this year's early voters, 64 percent are Democrats and 20 percent are Republicans, the Observer's Steve Harrison reports. In 2009, Democrats made up 52 percent of early voters, with Republicans at 31 percent. In 2007, Democrats were only 43 percent of early voters, according to the O's archives.

That's a definite trend, and it's especially surprising this year, given the malaise among Democratic voters in state and national polls. So why is it happening in Mecklenburg County? The credit should go to Foxx, who has built a formidable ground game in Charlotte that raises big money and gets out his voters. In a year where Mecklenburg's Republican early voters dropped by more than half, compared to the last mayoral race in 2009, Democrats fell only 1,400 voters to 10,300.

What does it mean for today? We pulled out the editorial board abacus for some election day crunching. Given the early voting numbers - 64 percent Democrat, 20 percent Republican, 15-16 percent unaffiliated - if you are generous to Stone and give him all the Republicans, half the independents and, say, 10 percent of Democrats, he would be at 34 percent heading into today. Republicans usually turn out in better numbers on election day, but with early voting historically making up about 20-25 percent of the total vote, that's a tall hill for Stone to climb.

It also means that other Republicans face similar challenges. That includes Republicans Edwin Peacock and Curtis Watkins in the City Council at-large race - and Tim Morgan, the school board District 6 representative who is running for an at-large seat today. (The O endorsed each of those candidates.)

Some Republicans are privately fretting about the early voting numbers, with good reason. But it's early, and it's sunny, so go do your part for the candidate or party of your choice.

Peter St. Onge