Candidates stress turnout, registration

Candidates stress turnout, registration
October 09
00:00 2014

Midterm elections tend to have far less voter turnout than presidential ones, but they can have just as big of an effect.

In the 2010 midterms, Democrats suffered greatly, losing their super majority in the U.S. Senate and control of the House of Representative. On the state level, more than a decade of Democratic majorities came to an end in the General Assembly. Here, in Forsyth County, Ted Kaplan, who was a first-term county commissioner, lost his re-election bid to Republican Bill Whiteheart.

“In 2010, I like to tell people I lost due to an illness, that folks were sick of the Democrats,” said Kaplan.



He credits low voter turnout, particularly among Democrats, as the reason he lost. Now, he’s back, challenging Whiteheart for the at-large seat that was wrested from him four years ago. He doesn’t expect Democrats – or Republicans – to stay home this time. Many, he thinks, are interested in the city bond referendum on the ballot and the hotly-contested U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis – a battle on which the Democrats’ thin Senate majority could hinge.

But, still, Kaplan is not taking any chances. He’s phone-banking to get-out-the-vote and helping the Forsyth County Democratic Party in its big push to register voters before the Oct. 10 deadline.

This election was to be the first time since 2007 without the same-day voter registration option during the early voting period – Oct. 23

– Nov. 1. However, last week the Richmond, Va.-based U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated same day registration and out-of-precinct voting. Forsyth County Democratic Party Chair Susan Campbell said since the decision was being appealed to the US. Supreme Court, which could strike it down, the big push to register voters by the Oct. 10 deadline remains unchanged.

Democrat Mary Dickinson said she was relieved by the ruling but isn’t changing her strategy. She’s challenging Republican Debra Conrad for the 74th District N.C. House seat. A longtime Democratic Party volunteer, she’s a veteran at canvasing local communities for other candidates. Now she and her team are going door-to-door in neighborhoods, including her own, on her own behalf. Registration forms are always at hand during these canvassing outings.

Dickinson is predicting that 2014 won’t be a 2010 repeat for Dems. She says people are fired up.

Mary Dickinson poses with Roderick Brice, whom she while canvassing in the Vienna Precinct.

Mary Dickinson poses with Roderick Brice, whom she while canvassing in the Vienna Precinct.

“My side of the coin is never happy,” she said. “It’s when there’s a high voter turnout that we win. I’m always supporting people voting, and I don’t care what their affiliation is. If there’s high voter turnout, my side will win.” 

GOP candidates are working hard to get out their voters too. Republican John Davenport, the current Board of Education vice-chair, is one of  six candidates running for three at-large seats on the School Board. He currently represents District I and thinks the work he has done on the board is his greatest advantage. He is a frequent presence at schools and prides himself on being available to the public. Davenport is still using traditional election methods – mailers, billboards, yard signs – to get his name before voters.

He is hoping for high voter turnout, especially among African Americans, who he says have struggled too hard for the right to simply ignore it. He wants voters to take time to learn about candidates and approach them with an open mind.

“I don’t think you want to give your vote away,” he said. “You really want to think about it and know who you’re voting for and make sure you’re voting for a person and not just a set of ideas someone has given you.”

Voter turnout is also important for candidates in the non-partisan judicial races. Attorney Valene Franco is running against Assistant Forsyth County District Attorney Ted Kazakos for the newly-created 21st District judicial seat.

Franco has a social media presence and her signs are an omnipresence around the city, but she’s still making a big push with door-to-door voter registration.



“The farther that you get down the ballot, the more impact that candidate has on your daily life,” she said. “… A midterm election is just as important as, if not more important, than one when where the president is on the ballot.”

Residents must have voter registration forms at the Forsyth County Board of Elections (which is in the Forsyth County Government Center at 201 N. Chestnut St.) by the end of the business day tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 10). Forms are also available online at

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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