Election 2016: Why It’s Still A Race

Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump take the stage in Las Vegas for their third and final presidential debate – and they’re meeting in the midst of a slew of controversies.

First, there was a leaked Access Hollywood video where Trump made lewd comments about women; then nine women came forward and accused Trump of sexual assault; Wikileaks released internal documents that were troubling for Clinton; and Trump is now campaigning against fellow Republicans as much as his opponent. (And let’s face it, the word “first” might not be entirely accurate up there.)

But Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says all the headlines have not really changed the dynamic of the presidential race – and he says that shouldn’t be too surprising. The headlines are salacious, he says, but they’re not actually telling us anything new about the candidates that we didn’t already know. Besides, each candidate’s supporters hate the other candidate so much that very little at this point could change their minds. (Trump supporters, naturally, take this to an extreme: 40 percent of Trump supporters in Florida actually say they believe Hillary Clinton is a literal demon.)

Jensen discussed the state of the race last week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Who’s Leading Prez Race In NC? Nobody Really Knows

Less than two months before Election Day (and less than a month and a half before the start of early voting), where do things stand in the presidential race in North Carolina?

With contrasting results from different polls, all we know is that it’s close.

A survey this week from Quinnipiac University shows Hillary Clinton with a four-point lead on Donald Trump, 47-43 – or 42-38, with Gary Johnson included. (Johnson gets 15 percent.) That’s good news for Clinton – but another survey out this week, from Suffolk University, shows Trump with a three-point lead in North Carolina, 44-41. (Gary Johnson only gets 4 percent in the Suffolk poll.)

What can we tell about the state of the presidential race, in North Carolina and nationwide? WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke this week with Tom Jensen, director of Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling. (PPP’s latest North Carolina survey showed Clinton with a one-point lead, 45-44.)


The Quinnipiac survey also asked voters about the other two high-profile state races in North Carolina, for Governor and U.S. Senate. There, the results were quite varied: incumbent Republican Senator Richard Burr has a six-point lead on Democratic challenger Deborah Ross, 49-43 – but incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory trails Democratic challenger Roy Cooper by seven points, 51-44.


Orange County Prepares for Elections Without Voter ID Law Requirements

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina’s voter ID laws last month. This change is causing local Boards of Elections to revamp their systems – including Orange County.

ID requirements are now being replaced with preregistration for teenagers, a week of early voting, same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional voting.  All of these changes will be part of the general election this November. And with all these changes, Tracy Reams has her own way of describing the looming elections.

“It seems like it’s been a moving target up until now.”

Reams is the director of Orange County Board of Elections. She said waiting for the Court of Appeals’ decision on voter ID laws kept her, and the rest of her committee, guessing.

“Well we never really know what we’re going to be doing from one day to the next so to speak,” Reams said.

Now that the 2013 Voter ID law has been overturned, Reams said her committee is working quickly to educate the public and the voting officials on the new guidelines.

“What we’re doing now is going in with our precinct supplies and we’re taking out anything that relates to requiring a photo ID,” Reams said. “We’re going to be working on updating our manuals and making sure to train our precinct officials that they no longer have to ask for a photo ID.”

Reams said repealing the Voter ID law will not only give people more times to vote, but also help with efficiency at the booths.

“Just the fact that the voter doesn’t have to present that voter ID will take a step out of the process out for our precinct officials. So we’re hoping that due to the elimination of that one step, we’ll be able to process our voters more efficiently.”

Reams suspects these upcoming elections will draw large numbers to the voting booths, and asked that anyone interested in the voting process volunteer at the polls.

“We’re always looking for anybody that’s willing to work on Election Day. With this election coming up, we’re going to be prepared to have a large turn out. So if there’s anybody out there that wants to work, please give us a call and we can find you a place to work.”

Early voting will start seven days earlier than usual, this year beginning on October 20. With this change, Reams said her committee will hold an open meeting on Tuesday, August 16 to discuss an early voting plan.

“Of course there will be an opportunity for public input prior to the discussion,” Reams said.

The early voting plan will be submitted on August 19. For anyone planning to vote on Election Day, the registration deadline is Friday, October the 14.


Chapel Hill’s ‘Good Old Days’ Were Not That Good

Originally published on September 23, 2015

As election season heats up in Chapel Hill, you’re bound to hear some candidates talk about how things used to be wonderful back in the old days, but that we’ve gotten off track in recent years.  So, what track was Chapel Hill on during these halcyon days that these candidates are so eager to get back on?

A few decades ago, town leaders intentionally enacted a web of cumbersome and capricious policies specifically designed to slow down growth and keep new businesses out.  It started with the best of intentions.  With strip malls all the rage, many Chapel Hillians understandably didn’t want their town turned into a parking lot.  The web of new regulations worked exactly as they were planned:  Strip malls like New Hope Commons, originally slated for here, went to Durham County instead.  (As someone who personally prefers to shop in pedestrian-oriented environs, Durham can have New Hope Commons.)  Town leaders didn’t seek ways to compromise or give businesses clear criteria for how to be congruent with our values.  Town leaders simply said, “no.”

Unfortunately, there were unintended consequences to Chapel Hill’s uncompromising approach to new businesses.  Those businesses realized they didn’t really actually need to be in Chapel Hill to get our money:  Our residents were happy to drive to Durham, Chatham and even Alamance counties to shop at all the stores that now cling to our boarders like barnacles on the bottom of a steam tramper.  Why waste years and millions of dollars wrangling with the Chapel Hill Town Council about every minute detail of your retail development, right down to the shrubbery, when Durham would approve you in months for a fraction of the bureaucratic fees?

By 2012, Orange Country was the richest county in the state of North Carolina, but 81st out of 100 counties in per capita sales tax revenue.  We keep less money from the state’s richest residents than some of our state’s poorest counties keep from theirs

Today, Orange County residents spend $1.8 billion a year at area stores, but Orange County’s retailers garner only half of that business.  That’s tax revenue on an $866-million retail sales gap that we now don’t have for our own schools, our own library, our fare-free buses, or for all the other amenities that make living here so wonderful.

If we return to that old track, one day we will no longer have the money for all these wonderful assets that make Chapel Hill so attractive.  Do we really expect anyone to pay our high property taxes if all those great assets are gone?

You can’t blame our residents for shopping elsewhere.  What choice do we have?  Chapel Hill has become a town of over 59,000 people, but nowhere to buy a TV or a new pair of blue jeans, all thanks to our policies from those good old days some candidates yearn to bring back.

Today’s town leaders are a breath of spring compared to those dark days.  Officials elected in recent years, responding to our community’s clear demand for greater economic sustainability, have demonstrated a clear commitment to finding the sweet spot between welcoming new stores, offices and homes, while avoiding the car-oriented, environmentally detrimental suburban strip mall parking lots that are out of line with our values as a community.

Some candidates will tell you we’re building too many new homes and not enough new stores.  But the fact is, retail follows residents.  Without new homes, which we also desperately need, we won’t get the retail we need, either.


— Matt Bailey


Have a comment or opinion you would like to share? Submit your commentary or column for the Commentators, on WCHL 97.9FM and Chapelboro.com.


Denial of the Fourth Circuit Appeal to the 2013 Reform Law Causes Concern

The denial of the Fourth Circuit appeal to the 2013 Reform Law, also known as the Voter ID Bill, has created some concerns for what voters should expect at the polls in November.

The new regulations block Voter ID and reinstates preregistration, a week of early voting, same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional voting.

The voter ID requirements that were in effect during the precinct voting will not be in place. Former Chapel Hill Town Council member & General Assembly Legislative Staff member Gerry Cohen said the biggest impact on the voting sites will be the wait times.

“I think the major effect will be to speed up voting. I think we saw in March especially that the process caused a lot of bottle-necks dealing with ID’s. In terms of the process, not having voter ID’s will greatly speed in the voter check-in,” Cohen said.

Since these requirements have been put into place since 2013, the years of planning that the Board of Elections had done for this year’s election are having to be revised.

“2013 Bill had reduced early voting from 17 days to 10 but required the same number of hours at registration. So, the Orange County Board of Elections voted unanimously a plan which now has to be reworked,” Cohen said.

Appeals for a stay to keep the provisions in place until the end of this election continue to come in. Cohen said he’s not convinced there will be any change in the decision even in the United States Supreme Court.

The voter registration deadline is in a couple of short months and Cohen said there are many things you can do to make your voting experience easier, especially when changing your address.

“If you have registered in Orange County but moved, the easiest way to report your change your address is if you have a voter registration card from Orange County, flip it over, there is a change of address form on the back. If you have moved within Orange County and have kept up with that, if not, the second best way to report a change of address is at early voting,” Cohen said.

Voter Registration ends on October 14th.

Cohen said that even though you won’t be required an ID when going to vote, he recommends bringing one if you have it to help the election clerk find your name faster.

State Board of Elections is meeting this week with county boards to discuss new guidelines.


Presidential Candidates Continue to Compete for Our Battle Ground State

As the Presidential race begins to heat up after the major party conventions ended, North Carolina doesn’t fall short of the spotlight when it comes to campaigning for our battle ground state.

Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine visited Greensboro today to speak about the Hilary Clinton campaign and their plan to make the working world better.

“If hard work is important, and I believe it is, and we have good workers, and I know that we do then we ought to value work and treat workers with dignity. That’s equal pay for equal work and minimum wage,” Kaine said.

Kaine said that according to Moody’s Analytics company that if Hilary Clinton implements her plans during her first term as President, she will produce more than 10 million new jobs.

“Would you rather have a ‘you’re hired’ president or a ‘you’re fired’ president,” Kaine asked the audience to a resounding, ‘You’re hired’ response. “Of course. Of course. It’s so simple we want a ‘you’re hired’ president not a ‘you’re fired’ president and folks, Hilary Clinton is and will be a ‘you’re hired’ president.”

Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, spoke at the rally encouraging everyone to go out and vote.

“We need you to go knock on doors, we need you to call your neighbors, we need you to register new voters and tell them how important this election is. We need all of you doing whatever it takes from now until Election Day to make sure we succeed,” Cooper said. “I believe that with the work that you have already done and with the work that you are going to do that we are going to elect a new governor of North Carolina, and we are going to elect the next Vice President and President of the United States,” Cooper said.

The campaigning continues as Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence takes the stage in Raleigh tomorrow to speak on Donald Trump’s campaign.


Trump Got Post-RNC Bounce, But Will It Last?

Even in this wild, loopy, unprecedented election year, some things never change.

Historically, the week after every major party convention, the party’s presidential candidate gets a fairly sizable bump in the national polls. (No surprise – conventions are basically week-long infomercials for the party, and human beings are susceptible to good advertising.) That proved to be the case last week too: this year’s Republican National Convention was unconventional in many ways, but Donald Trump’s post-convention bounce (about 3-4 points, give or take) was right in line with past candidates in previous years.

Supporters of the opposing party got worried – also no change from previous years – but pollsters say not to worry: Hillary Clinton will probably get her own post-convention bounce when polls start to come in next week.

Earlier this week, Public Policy Polling released a survey of voters in Ohio – the host of the Republican convention, and an important swing state in its own right. (No Republican has ever won the presidential election without winning Ohio – and in fact, the last candidate of any party to lose Ohio and still get elected was John Kennedy, 56 years ago.) PPP’s post-RNC survey showed Trump with a narrow lead over Hillary Clinton, 42-39, a seven-point swing from June – but PPP director Tom Jensen says there’s a lot of good news for Clinton in the survey too.

For one thing, Jensen says, nearly one in five Ohio voters still haven’t made up their minds between the two major candidates. Nearly half of them say they’re supporting a third-party candidate (Gary Johnson polls 6 percent, Jill Stein polls 2 percent) – but the rest say they’d choose Clinton over Trump, by an 18-point margin, if they were forced to make a choice today.

Undecided voters also favor Barack Obama over Trump by a 30-point margin, Jensen says, so Clinton needs only to win over those voters who support the current administration. (That was clearly one of the primary goals of this week’s DNC.)

Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Thursday, a few hours before Hillary Clinton’s DNC address.


PPP’s Ohio survey also found that both Trump and Clinton have consolidated their respective bases: notwithstanding the “Bernie or Bust”-ers and the #NeverTrump-ers, 82 percent of Republicans say they’re voting for Trump and 84 percent of Democrats say they’re voting for Clinton. (The survey was conducted before the DNC, so that latter number may have risen: Jensen says parties typically unify around their nominee after conventions.)

Visit this link for more numbers from PPP’s Ohio survey. (PPP is currently conducting a post-DNC survey of Pennsylvania, where the Democrats held their convention.)


Local Dems In Philly For DNC, Excited For Hillary

Acknowledging the historic nature of her nomination (“When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit”) and frequently calling out her opponent (“A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons”), Hillary Clinton on Thursday officially accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

And inside the Wells Fargo Center, Orange County was very well represented.

DNC delegates from Orange County include Jeff DeLuca, county party chair Matt Hughes, County Commissioner Penny Rich, and State Representative Graig Meyer – and in addition to the official delegates, numerous other local residents were on hand as observers, including Margot Lester of the Word Factory.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck has been speaking to members of the Orange County delegation all week. On Thursday, before Clinton took the stage, he spoke with Rep. Meyer and Margot Lester to get their thoughts about the week so far – and their feelings about the upcoming general election campaign.

Listen to Aaron’s conversation with Graig Meyer…


…and with Margot Lester.


Visit Chapelboro.com and tune into WCHL all campaign long for more local election coverage – and visit this page to hear Aaron’s conversations from earlier this week, with Jeff DeLuca and Matt Hughes.


Election 2016: PPP Says Don’t Freak Out About Polls – Yet

It’s still too early to be sure how the Republican convention has affected the presidential race, but it’s probably safe to say Donald Trump will get a fairly significant bounce in the national polls. That’s what we typically see in the days immediately following a national party convention – and while the RNC had its chaotic moments, Trump himself gave a speech that was generally well-reviewed. (Relative, at least, to his usual efforts.)

But should this be a major concern for Democrats and #NeverTrumpers? Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says no – at least, not yet.

Jensen says PPP is still finding the 2016 race shaping up much like the 2012 race, with Trump and Hillary Clinton polling about the same, from state to state, as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama did four years ago. Trump will get a post-convention bounce in the polls – he’ll likely take the lead in some surveys, if not all – but Clinton will almost certainly get a post-convention bounce of her own in a week.

And even though Election Day is rapidly approaching, Jensen says it’s still too early for the polls to be a reliable indicator of the final outcome. (Pre-RNC polls showed Clinton with about a four-point lead on Trump. That’s roughly the same lead Obama had on John McCain at the same stage in 2008, the same lead Obama had on Romney at the same stage in 2012 – and the same lead John Kerry had on George W. Bush at the same stage in 2004.)

Tom Jensen spoke last Thursday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck, a few hours before Trump’s convention speech.


Jensen says one thing is pretty certain, though: North Carolina will be a pivotal swing state in the presidential race, possibly even the decisive state. (So expect a lot of candidate visits – and irritating campaign ads – in the months to come.)


Republicans Unite Around Trump, But Clinton Still Has Edge

Donald Trump won the GOP presidential nomination over the loud objections of more than a few leading Republicans. But as our collective attention turns to the general election, most Republicans appear to be falling in line behind the nominee – even if they’re gritting their teeth to do it.

A national survey this week from Public Policy Polling finds Hillary Clinton with a four-point edge on Trump, 42-38, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 4 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 2 percent. (Johnson and Stein are actually pulling more votes from Clinton than Trump; take them away and Clinton’s lead would jump to six points.)

For all the talk about GOP disunity, though, Trump gets almost exactly as much support from Republicans as Clinton gets from Democrats. Clinton leads Trump 78-9 among Democrats, while Trump leads Clinton 78-7 among Republicans; 72 percent of Republicans say they’re comfortable with Trump as their party’s nominee, while 75 percent of Democrats say they’re comfortable with Clinton. (The number of Republicans and Democrats who say they’re uncomfortable with their party’s frontrunner? Exactly the same in both parties, 21 percent.)

Get more numbers from PPP’s presidential survey here.

Those numbers may be disappointing to Democrats who were hoping for a fractured GOP this fall – but PPP director Tom Jensen says there’s plenty of good news here for Democrats too. For one, the undecided voters in a Clinton/Trump matchup tend to be supporters of Bernie Sanders – Clinton/Trump undecideds favor Sanders over Trump by a 41-8 margin – so if Clinton does end up winning the nomination, she may be able to expand her lead in a big way merely by winning over Sanders’ supporters. (The Clinton/Sanders race has been contentious, but Jensen says he does expect the party to come together sooner or later. At this time in 2008, he says, nearly half of Clinton’s supporters were telling pollsters they wouldn’t vote for Obama that fall – far more than the number of Sanders supporters who say they won’t support Clinton now – but almost all those voters did wind up supporting Obama in the end.)

And while Clinton’s popularity ratings remain low, Jensen says Trump’s are even lower: only 34 percent of voters approve of him, against 61 percent who disapprove. (And Trump’s supporters still tend to be on the fringes when it comes to their political views: nearly two-thirds of them say they think Barack Obama is a Muslim, for instance, and nearly three-fifths say they still don’t believe he was born in the US.) To drive home the point, PPP tested Trump in head-to-head matchups with other despised things: voters prefer lice to Donald Trump by a 54-28 margin, root canals to Donald Trump by a 49-38 margin, used car salesmen to Donald Trump by a 47-41 margin, and the band Nickelback to Donald Trump by a 39-34 margin.

(Trump does win head-to-head battles with cockroaches and hemorrhoids, though. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.)

Tom Jensen spoke Thursday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Jensen says even if the GOP does end up unifying around its nominee, Trump’s place at the top of the ballot may still haunt the party in the general election. Democrats lead Republicans 46-41 in a generic Congressional ballot – not enough of a lead for Democrats to regain control of the House of Representatives, but enough for Democrats to pick up several seats in both houses (and possibly retake the Senate). Voters also say (by a 45-26 margin) that they’d be less likely to vote for a candidate if that candidate endorses Trump for president.

Get more numbers on PPP’s Congressional survey here.

And the thought of Donald Trump in the White House is also making voters more likely to want the Senate to vote now on President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. Only 38 percent of voters say they trust Trump to make a Supreme Court nomination, against 53 percent who don’t; 58 percent of Americans say they want the vacant seat filled this year (up slightly from two months ago); and 50 percent of voters say they’d be less likely to vote for a Senator if that Senator blocked Merritt Garland’s confirmation hearings. (Only 18 percent say they’d be more likely to vote for such a candidate.)

Get more numbers on PPP’s Supreme Court survey here.