Apathy carries Greensboro primary election

by Dave Roberts

“Thirty-seven so far.”

That was the running tally of voters at Glenwood Presbyterian Church by noon on Oct. 9, the date of Greensboro’s municipal primary election. Poll workers outnumbered voters by five to one at any given time, much slower than it had been in the August election to consider the recall of Dianne Bellamy-Small. Nonetheless, a jovial atmosphere permeated the church hall. The workers’ enthusiasm was undiminished by the lack of participation; rather it seemed bolstered.

“We’re doing better than usual,” said Conrad Cates. “One time we only had thirty-nine for the whole day.”

All in all, 7 percent of Greensboro’s eligible voting population showed up to participate in their city’s government on Tuesday. Those who came out did so mainly out of a sense of obligation rather than any strong feelings about the candidates or the issues.

“Because I feel it’s the only response I have to anything in government,” said Brenda Johnson when asked why she was voting. Similarly, Martha Herbolick said she makes a point of voting every election. She listed fringe development, crime and infrastructure as issues that influenced her choices the most.

“I believe it’s the right thing to do; I’m a long-time member of this community,” said David Worth, who based his vote not on positions taken by candidates on specific issues but “on a sense of who I think would do the best job, from having been around a lot of these people.” In this he mirrored most other respondents. Also like many other voters, he was unwilling to disclose for whom he voted.

Irwin Smallwood, retired managing editor at the News & Record, summed up the spirit of the day best: “I always vote. It’s the backbone of democracy. It comes right under our rights. You should either vote or sit down and shut up.”

“Character and knowledge of the people,” he said in response to a question about what influenced his vote. “That’s the beauty of municipal elections. You have an opportunity to get to know exactly who you’re voting for.”

The low turnout was a frequent topic of conversation among poll workers, with many bemoaning the apathy of the vast majority of Greensboro’s population.

“This is a God-given right, and they should exercise it,” said Maggie Carden.

Their conversation continued in this spiritedly patriotic tone as the clock ticked away the minutes of primary day. Carden, a longtime Glenwood resident, lamented the disrepair her neighborhood had fallen into.

“I remember when this was the nice part of town,” she said. “Now look at it…. That’s why people get so disgusted with voting, ’cause what good does it do? It takes almost an act of Congress to get anything done.”

Welby Rouse, who was voting for the first time in his life, said he “wanted to get my vote in finally instead of whining. It is what all adults should do.”

When asked, Mr. Rouse could not recall to whom he had given his vote.