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Election Day Is Nigh, And We Still Don’t Like Anybody

Election Day 2014 is less than three weeks away – and early voting begins in six days – but pollsters still aren’t sure how things are going to shake out, primarily because voters this year generally dislike all of their available options.

That’s on the national level as well as here in North Carolina. Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says there’s a general anti-incumbent sentiment – but that’s mitigated by the fact that voters are also opposed to the incumbents’ challengers. Both the Democratic and Republican Parties are having trouble gaining traction with the electorate; third-party candidates are drawing support in many races, but not nearly enough to have a viable chance of winning – only enough to (possibly) sway the vote from one major-party candidate to the other.

What will this mean on Election Night? Jensen says he suspects voters will ultimately hold their collective noses and vote whatever party they’ve supported in the past. PPP’s most recent surveys focused on two conservative states, Idaho and Kansas, where Republican incumbents are in surprisingly close races – but Jensen says those incumbents are building slightly more comfortable leads (or pulling closer to the lead, in Kansas) as GOP-leaning voters are falling back in their camps. The same goes, he says, for reliably Democratic states like Massachusetts, where Democratic incumbents too are slowly pulling away in surprisingly close races.

See the latest PPP survey from Idaho…

…and the latest numbers from Kansas.

In North Carolina, Jensen says the race for U.S. Senate is still a toss-up: Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan still holds a very slight lead, but Republican challenger Thom Tillis appears to have closed the narrow gap by a point or two in recent weeks. (Jensen says he doesn’t think the current flap over same-sex marriage will move the dial much: red-meat conservatives may be motivated by Tillis’s continued defense of the state’s now-defunct gay-marriage ban, he says, but just as many moderates will be turned off by it.)

As for the race for General Assembly, Jensen says Democrats are almost certainly going to gain seats in the North Carolina House and Senate – but not nearly enough to overcome the GOP’s enormous majority. At best, Jensen says, Democrats might be able to win enough seats to deny Republicans a veto-proof majority – which could be significant if there’s a split between House and Senate Republicans and Governor Pat McCrory (who campaigned as a moderate).

Tom Jensen spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL Friday.

 

So after all that, what do voters want? Jensen says there does seem to be something of a consensus, with Americans embracing a mix of some liberal and some conservative positions. (A majority of Americans oppose Obamacare, for instance, but support Medicaid expansion and an increased minimum wage.) But that particular blend of views doesn’t have a home in either party’s platform.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/election-day-nigh-still-dont-like-anybody/

US Supreme Court Stops NC Same-Day Registration, Out-of-Precinct Voting

A United States Supreme Court ruling means North Carolina voters won’t be able to register to vote and cast ballots on the same day, and voters won’t be able to vote out of their precincts.

“We do want to encourage anyone out there who has not registered to make sure that they register,” says Orange County’s Board of Elections Director Tracy Reams.

The deadline to register is Friday. Reams says registrations are considered “on time” if they are postmarked by Friday.

The Supreme Court halted the ruling of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday. On October 1, the 4th Circuit Court reinstated same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting. Before October 1 both were not allowed.

Reams says getting the word out regarding this change in election laws has been a top priority.

“How we’re going about getting this information out is through press releases and media such as yours,” Reams says.

She says word of mouth is one key way to share this information.

“When people come in here to register, we let them know Friday is the deadline, and ‘do you know of anybody else that needs to register, maybe family, friends, neighbors?’,” Reams says.

Early voting starts October 23, and November 4 is election day.

For more information, and to download a voter registration form, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/us-supreme-court-stops-nc-day-registration-precinct-voting/

More Than 400 Disenfranchised By New NC Voting Rules

Democracy North Carolina says 454 voters who would have had their ballots counted under 2012 election rules were not able to vote in the May Primary thanks to two key changes made by the General Assembly.

North Carolina’s sweeping election reform bill was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory in 2013. Among the many changes to voting rules, the new law did away with same-day registration during Early Voting and no longer allowed voters to cast a provisional ballot if they show up to vote outside their assigned precinct.

Democracy North Carolina says new analysis shows the laws are disproportionately affecting minority and Democratic voters.

Black voters, who make up 22 percent of the state’s registered voters, counted for 39 percent of those whose ballots were rejected. Democrats are 42 percent of all registered voters, but were 57 percent of those disenfranchised by the new rules.
The data was released one month before the deadline to register to vote in the November general election. Voting advocates say it’s important to double-check voting status now because the October 10 deadline is your last chance to register.

To check your registration status and see a sample ballot, go to NCvoter.org.

You can find the full report from Democracy North Carolina here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/400-disenfranchised-new-voting-rules/

2014: Gains For Dems In NC?

On the national level, Republicans are poised to make some gains in the November midterm election. But in North Carolina, could 2014 be a Democratic year?

Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says it might. Dissatisfaction with the government is high this year, and that’s good for the opposition party – whichever party that should be. That means Republicans would benefit on the national level, but in GOP-dominated North Carolina, it’s the Democratic Party that stands to gain. Plus, Jensen says, NC Republicans were so successful in the 2010 and 2012 elections that there aren’t many winnable races left that they haven’t already won – so while Democrats are looking to pick up seats, the best Republicans can hope for is to hold the seats they already have. (In the race for U.S. Senate, incidentally, it’s the same story in reverse: all the seats up for election this year were last contested in 2008, a landslide year for Democrats.)

What will this mean in November? Jensen says it’s highly unlikely that Democrats will pick up enough seats to reclaim a majority in the State House or Senate – but they could win enough to cancel the GOP’s veto-proof majority. That in turn would strengthen the power of the governor’s office – giving Pat McCrory more of a chance to flex his moderate muscle in the short term (if he so chose), and elevating the importance of the 2016 gubernatorial election in the longer term.

Tom Jensen spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL this week. In addition to the General Assembly race, they also discussed public opinion about a minimum wage increase – and (of course) the upcoming UNC football game.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/2014-gains-dems-nc/

Election 2014: Voters Unhappy, Outcome Uncertain

The 2014 midterm election is just a little more than two months away, but with so many close races nationwide, pollsters are finding it hard to predict how it will go.

At stake – among other things – is control of the U.S. Senate. Democrats currently hold a 53-45 edge in the Senate, but Republicans are poised to make significant gains this year, particularly with the impending retirement of some popular Democrats in otherwise right-leaning states. (Also noteworthy is that Senators are elected every six years – so the seats up for grabs this year were last at play in 2008, an unusually strong year for Democrats. A few Democrats won close elections in 2008 on the coattails of then-candidate Barack Obama – but the President’s approval rating today is low, so a close association with Obama could have the opposite effect this time around.)

But even though voters generally don’t approve of the President, they also dislike his opponents. Across the nation, voters are expressing disapproval of Democrats and Republicans alike – and that means it’s entirely unclear who will come out on top in November. (In spite of the uncertainty, Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says this has been the least enjoyable election he’s ever covered, simply because the mood is so sour across the political spectrum.)

Jensen says he’s finding a similar story in many Senate races: the Democratic candidate is slightly more popular than the Republican, but that Democrat is being weighed down by his or her association with the unpopular president. If the election turns into a referendum on Barack Obama, Jensen says, Republicans will likely make big gains – but if voters cast ballots based on how they feel about the candidates themselves, it will be a Democratic year. (Or at least a more Democratic year.)

How does the Senate race look today? According to the website Real Clear Politics, Republicans will end the year with at least 46 Senate seats; Democrats will end the year with at least 45; and nine seats – Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina – are too close to call. (GOP-leaning South Dakota may join that list soon: a Public Policy Polling survey this week had that race tightening.) Depending on how things shake out in the next two months, Jensen says, 2014 could see virtually no change in the Senate – or it could be a historic sea-change election for Republicans. (Most of those nine toss-up seats are currently held by Democrats.)

Compounding the uncertainty, independent and third-party candidates are also drawing support in many of these too-close-to-call races – including North Carolina, where libertarian Sean Haugh is polling close to 10 percent in many surveys. Jensen says those candidates will likely see their support drop as the election draws nearer – but in a close race, even a few percentage points could turn the tide. (Looking ahead, Jensen says the unpopularity of the two major parties could open the door for an even stronger third-party movement in 2016. Such a movement, he says, would have to be well-funded and probably centrist. But it may also be due: by 2016, it will have been 24 years since a third-party candidate – Ross Perot in 1992 – drew more than 10 percent of the presidential vote.)

PPP director Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the air Friday.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/election-2014-voters-unhappy-outcome-uncertain/

Poll: Nation On The Wrong Track

North Carolina voters aren’t happy with the direction the nation is headed.

The Civitas Institute is a conservative publication, which conducted a poll in late July. In the release of the poll last week, it stated 70 percent of registered North Carolina voters think the United States are on the wrong track compared to the 20 percent that thinks things are heading in the right direction.

In October 2012, the split was 55-40, with the majority still believing the nation wasn’t in the right place.

The number one issue voters said they were concerned about was the economy. In a close second was jobs and unemployment, followed by immigration, health care, and the current government.

Neither political party had the upper hand in the poll. When voters were asked which candidate they would vote for if the election for Congress was held on that date, 43 percent said the Republican and 43 percent said the Democrat.

And, when asked specifically how President Barack Obama is doing—almost at the midway point in his second term—53 percent disapprove while 45 percent approve.

To see a complete breakdown of the poll, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/poll-nation-wrong-track/

AARP: Poll Shows Retirement Security Fears

AARP North Carolina reports a new election year poll revealing that voters 50 years and older who participate in November elections worry that a secure retirement could be out of reach for them.

According to the survey, voters 50+ worry the most about paying too much in taxes (60%); costs rising faster than incomes (55%); health expenses (49%); not having enough to pay for care for a spouse who needs daily assistance (44%); and not having financial security in retirement (44%).

50+ voters say they want to see candidates whose platforms include focusing on their financial security, according to the survey.

One component of the survey is the “Anxiety Index,” which indicates this year that older voters, particularly those who are not retired yet, feel anxious about their economic security.

The survey also revealed that 79% of non-retirees, most of whom are boomers, think that it will be hard to save for retirement. 52% of this pool say that they have postponed or are planning to postpone retirement.

The majority of older voters surveyed say they hold Social Security as a top priority, with 81% saying that it will influence their voting decision this year.
76% of older voters oppose candidates who would support cuts in Social Security to reduce the deficit, and 78% think that candidates need to elaborate more on their positions regarding Social Security reform.

77% of Social Security Beneficiaries say that their expenses are rising faster than their Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA).

Another key issue highlighted in the survey is the matter of independent living. The majority of survey participants want to live independently as they age and see this issue as a critical one, with 76% saying that candidates need to do more to explain their position on this issue.

77% of the 50+ voters who participated want to receive care in their homes rather than costly nursing homes when tasks become too difficult due to age or illness.

56% of voters 50+ have been or are caregivers. 25% say they expect to be caregivers in the future.

On the topic of age discrimination, an overwhelming majority of voters (81%) support he Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, which is designed to help older workers by restoring workplace protections under the law.

To view the complete results of the survey, you can find this story on our website, Chapelboro.com.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/aarp-poll-shows-retirement-security-fears/

Early Voting For Sheriff Concludes

Early voting is closed for Orange County’s next sheriff as 298 residents cast their ballots on Friday, and 282 voted on Saturday taking the total to 1,519 for early voting.

Saturday, Orange County Commissioner Mark Dorosin told WCHL that he organized about 100 citizens to join him in voting early, and led the caravan from Chapel Hill to Hillsborough.

Charles Blackwood and David Caldwell are in the runoff for the position after the two were separated by just more than 60 votes in the May 6 Primary. Since neither received more than 40 percent of the vote, the second-place finisher—Caldwell—was able to call for the runoff.

Only the Board of Elections Headquarters took votes in the early voting process because of the historically low turnout for runoffs. However, all 44 precincts open on Election Day, Tuesday, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Candidate Profiles

Charles Blackwood

David Caldwell

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/early-voting-sheriff-concludes/

No Early Voting Friday

Don’t travel to Hillsborough Friday to place your vote for Orange County Sheriff.

Early voting for the runoff election is closed Friday for the July 4 holiday. The polls open again Monday at 9:00 a.m.; they’ll be opened each day next week until 5:00 p.m. They’ll open next Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Election Day is July 15, and all 44 precincts will open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/early-voting-friday/

NC GOP Unpopular – But Are They In Danger?

Pat McCrory is unpopular and the North Carolina General Assembly is extremely unpopular – but it doesn’t look like there will be much of a shakeup in Raleigh when North Carolinians go to vote this November.

That’s the upshot of the latest survey from Public Policy Polling, released last week.

Read the report here.

Governor McCrory’s approval rating is only 39 percent and his disapproval rating is 45 percent – marking the 12th month in a row that McCrory has been in negative territory. PPP director Tom Jensen says that may be because voters see McCrory as a weak governor: only 27 percent believe he’s calling the shots in Raleigh, while 43 percent think the General Assembly is in control. (And voters don’t see that as a good thing: only 18 percent of North Carolinians approve of the job the NCGA is doing.)

But voters disapprove of Democrats in the NCGA as much as they disapprove of Republicans – so even though the NCGA is in Republican hands, there doesn’t appear to be a groundswell of support for Democrats yet. Republicans actually lead a generic legislative ballot 43-41, which Jensen says would give the GOP essentially the same majority for the next two years that it enjoys today. (That’s in spite of the fact that most of the policies being passed in the House and Senate are themselves unpopular as well.)

Tom Jensen joined Aaron Keck on the Tuesday afternoon news to discuss the poll.

As for the 2016 election, Jensen says to expect some close races: McCrory currently holds a 44-42 lead over attorney general Roy Cooper, the presumptive Democratic challenger (owing partly to Cooper’s low name recognition, Jensen says), while Hillary Clinton leads the most likely Republican candidates in the presidential race by equally narrow margins.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/nc-gop-unpopular-danger/