High-profile races and recent political history were top of mind for voters at polling places across Mecklenburg County on Tuesday.
Polls opened at 6:30 a.m. for Election Day, after more than 40,000 voters in the county cast ballots during early voting. That’s about 5.15% of the county’s 776,318 eligible voters, with county elections officials saying they hoped Tuesday’s vote would bring turnout up to 15-20%.
All Mecklenburg County voters had on their ballots a $2.5 billion school bond that could fund 30 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools projects. They also faced a slate of 14 candidates from which to choose three at-large school board members.
Charlotte and Mecklenburg towns were also set to elect mayors and city council members, town council members and town commissioners, and municipal elections were held across the state. In Charlotte, Mayor Vi Lyles was expected to cruise to a fourth term and five of seven City Council district seats were already decided because only one party fielded a candidate.
At the Eastover Elementary School precinct in south Charlotte’s District 6, the rematch between Republican Councilman Tariq Bokhari and Democratic challenger Stephanie Hand brought Bonnie Tangalos out to the polls.
Tangalos was first drawn to Hand when she ran in the district in 2022.
“We were very impressed with her, and since that time, we’ve gotten to know her, to read more about her, and we think she’s eminently qualified for the position,” she said.
She’s enough of a fan that in addition to coming out to vote, she volunteered to hand out materials about Hand and other Democratic candidates outside her precinct.
Tangalos said turnout seemed “steady” during her three hours manning the table. As of 2 p.m., precinct volunteers said, 265 people had voted at the school.
Peggy Bridgforth said her voting experience was “easy and great” at the Eastover precinct, and she felt it was important to come out even though she hadn’t followed this year’s campaigns closely.
“This is our right to vote, so we need to make sure we use it,” she said.
Elsewhere in District 6, voters Ann McNeer and Patsy Linker waited in a short line of about 10 people to cast ballots at the Myers Park Traditional Elementary school.
Both women said they were especially interested in the school board race, which has drawn attention over allegations of partisanship in an officially nonpartisan election.
“My gosh, if we’re gonna complain about everything, get out and vote. That’s the only way we can change things,” Linker said.
Turnout was “about average” based on their previous experiences at the precinct, the pair said. Precinct volunteers said 338 people had voted at the school as of 2:45 p.m.
At Francis Bradley Middle School in Huntersville, more than 530 voters had turned out by 3:30 p.m., precinct volunteers said.
Volunteers gave a round of applause to a first-time voter, and multiple campaigns and candidates were set up outside the school with materials to hand out to folks entering the school.
It was a crowded field in the north Mecklenburg town, where two current Huntersville commissioners — Dan Boone and Derek Partee — and former state Rep. Christy Clark were running to replace outgoing Mayor Melinda Bales. And a total of 17 candidates were running for six seats on the Huntersville Board of Commissioners, including two incumbents.
A flyer sent out by a Republican political group added extra heat to the race, warning Huntersville voters about “dangerous Democrat activists” trying to “take over town hall.”
Erin Maus said she was especially motivated to vote this election after being “frustrated” by state Rep. Tricia Cotham’s decision to switch parties from Democrat to Republican earlier this year.
“I think it’s really important,” Maus said of voting in municipal elections, “because these politicians could be the senators and state representatives, or even the federal legislators, of the future. Who knows, maybe one of them will be president.”
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