ROCKINGHAM — Voter turnout for Richmond County’s municipal elections has been “very low” this time around, Director of Elections Connie Kelly said.
Since early voting began on Oct. 19, only 142 people have cast their votes across the county with less than a week to go before election day.
“Hopefully, election day will have higher numbers,” Kelly said in an email.
In 2011, there were 2,127 total votes cast in the municipal elections out of a total 29,926 registered voters. There were 2,188 in 2013 and 976 in 2015.
Voters were certainly more engaged in politics at the national level with 18,499 votes cast in Richmond County during the 2016 presidential election, according to county records.
While county voters wanted a major change at the top, ultimately voting in favor of Donald Trump by a roughly 10 percent margin, there’s not much opportunity for change in leadership at the local level.
Of the four races across the county, only Ellerbe and Hamlet are contested. Rockingham and Hoffman are uncontested, though Hoffman has an open seat after one of the council members did not file for re-election by the deadline. Dobbins Heights, which held its election on Oct. 10, had two city council member run for re-election unopposed.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t still something at stake: in Rockingham’s race, the candidate with the lowest vote total will face another re-election campaign in two years instead of four. The lack of challengers also indicates a desire to keep the status quo, according to the results of a survey of the candidates conducted by the Daily Journal last week.
“I feel that either everyone is satisfied or at least the majority is not dissatisfied,” council member Anne Edwards said in an email. “It could be that no one felt strong enough about any subjects to run for office.”
All the candidates for re-election in Rockingham expressed a desire to continue the development of downtown.
“I feel like the majority of the citizens of Rockingham are pleased with the things the present council has accomplished and have confidence that we will provide good leadership and stewardship of the city’s funds,” Mayor Steve Morris said in an email. “We have a great, cooperative team of progressive leaders now serving and I think that is well understood by the voters.”
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674.