Most N.C. voters let others pick their candidates

Published May 26, 2022

By Capitol Broadcasting Company

Once upon a time political party bosses gathered behind closed doors, in what in a quainter time would be termed “smoke-filled rooms,” to anoint their candidates for public offices.

Then along came political party primaries. In some cases, the bosses still got to pick their candidates to be on the primary ballot – but also others had their chance to place themselves before the party faithful.

The notion was to give EVERYONE in a political party a voice in the selection of the candidates. It would increase the likelihood that party nominees would have broader support and that outlier candidates with uncertain credentials or experience would get weeded out.

In North Carolina, the Republicans and Democrats even extended participation to unaffiliated voters who might want to get involve

But in reality, as displayed in the North Carolina primaries of a week ago, it seems just a handful of those decide. Primaries are just a virtual version of the “smoke-filled room.”

While there was some crowing about the record-setting total turnout for a non-presidential year primary – 1.42 million voters – the reality is that it is all very faintly deserved praise.

Here’s the cold-hard truth. If voting with your feet matters, North Carolinians overwhelmingly rejected all of the Republican and Democratic choices.

What does it mean when just 20% of the state’s 7.3 million voters participate in a primary election?

  • 4 of every 5 registered voters DID NOT cast a ballot.
  • 3 out of every 4 of North Carolina’s 2.5 million Democrats DID NOT cast a ballot.
  • 2 out of every 3 of North Carolina’s 2.2 million Republicans DID NOT cast a ballot.
  • 80% of Republicans and Democrats let other folks decide who would be their party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate, to replace incumbent Sen. Richard Burr.

It means that outside groups, like the Club for Growth, AIPAC, Protect Our Future PAC and others have an outsized impact on who will represent North Carolinians. Of the $21.8 million spent in the Republican Senate primary, just $2.7 million – barely 12% -- was raised by the candidates. Looked at in a different way, these outsiders spent more than $44 per vote for Ted Budd, the GOP’s nominee. That’s about enough to buy three 12-ounce cans of powdered formula for almost a half-million babies.

That 88% from outsiders without any involvement of the candidates or state political parties (otherwise is a violation of the law), determined what good or bad voters would know about the candidates via broadcast commercials and mass mailings. The greatest portion was spent to attack specific candidates.

If past is any predictor, about half of North Carolina’s voters will cast ballots in the Nov. 8 election.

No voters should, as nearly three quarters regretfully did last week, allow others to make choices for them.

From the courthouse to the statehouse, to the state’s judicial chambers and the halls of the U.S. Capitol, North Carolina voters will make some of the most critical choices ever in determining the kind of government that will serve them from Raleigh and Washington.

We must do our part to be informed, engaged, involved – and most importantly – to make our voice heard and count by voting. We cannot let outsiders tell us what’s best for us, nor leave it to others to make our choices. Nothing speaks louder than a ballot cast.  Don’t be silenced.