In North Carolina, the past three presidential contests have been decided by an average of 2 percentage points.
The state will once again be among the most important in the 2020 election cycle. The Republican National Convention is here this summer, and candidates are already flowing through Charlotte. Last Friday, it was President Trump at CPCC. This Friday, it’s Bernie Sanders at the Blumenthal Performing Arts. Joe Biden’s sister and longtime adviser, Valerie, is in Charlotte today to kick off early voting. Tom Steyer’s been here already.
Whatever your political preference, you live in a state where your vote matters.
Here’s basic information for the 2020 primary.
Are you registered to vote? If you didn’t register by the February 7 deadline, you can still register in-person at any early voting polling place from February 13 to 29. Check here to confirm your eligibility and see your sample ballot.
Early voting locations: In Mecklenburg County, you can choose from any of 20 one-stop locations, which are scattered from Ballantyne to Cornelius and places in between.
Hours: The polls are open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays. There’s no early voting this weekend (February 15-16), but you can vote on Saturday, February 22 (from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.), Sunday, February 23 (from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.), and Saturday, February 29 (from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
If you just like waiting in line on Election Day: Polls open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on March 3.
Do you need a photo ID? No. A federal judge blocked the Voter ID law on December 31.
What if I’m registered unaffiliated? You can vote in any primary — Democratic, Republican, or Libertarian — but not more than one.
Five key races
(1) President: Democrats have 16 candidates to choose from, although some who are on the ballot have dropped out, including Andrew Yang on Tuesday.
A High Point University poll released Wednesday shows that Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden are the favorites to win North Carolina. The poll has Sanders with a slight edge over Biden among Democrats and unaffiliated voters who said they’ll participate in the primary. Michael Bloomberg was in third, Elizabeth Warren was in fourth, while Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, and Amy Klobuchar were all well behind.
Prominent local voices have thrown support behind candidates in the Democratic primary. Congresswoman Alma Adams has endorsed Joe Biden, while former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl has been named co-chair of Michael Bloomberg’s North Carolina campaign.
Republicans have three candidates on the ballot, including Trump, who will undoubtedly win and move on to the general. You knew that. But did you know that 16 Libertarian candidates are also competing in the presidential primary?
(2) U.S. Senate: Democrats will see who’ll face incumbent Senator Thom Tillis. Cal Cunningham is the likely winner, but the race got a shot of intrigue this week with reports that a Republican PAC is spending millions in support of one of his opponents, Erica Smith. Mecklenburg County commissioner Trevor Fuller is also running for the spot.
(3) Governor: Democrat Roy Cooper has a challenger in Ernest Reeves, but Cooper will likely move on to the general. On the Republican side, lieutenant governor Dan Forest faces Holly Grange. The HPU poll has Forest with a sizable edge.
(4) Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners at-large (Democrat): In the first election since Democrats gained a 9-0 sweep of the board, 2020 is an important year for the commissioners. After a property revaluation increased most residents’ tax bills, and a long fight over the sales tax referendum last fall, spending is still the most prominent subject: the school board this week asked more tax money for school construction, for instance.
You can select three candidates from a list of eight. Pat Cotham and Ella Scarborough are incumbents. Cotham is regularly one of the leading vote-getters, and she has a long record of breaking with the Democratic majority. But newcomer Leigh Altman — an attorney, former assistant attorney general in Georgia, and an advocate for seniors and children in Mecklenburg County — has raised a ton of money. Pastor Ray McKinnon, whose church serves the Brookhill community, has support from several of the city’s influential businesspeople and political organizations, including the Black Political Caucus.
(5) 9th Congressional District: You may remember the saga of the 9th in 2018, when a wild election fraud scandal voided an apparent victory for Republican Mark Harris. Last September, Republican Dan Bishop won the seat in a special election.
This time, Bishop has no primary challenger, while the Democrats have four candidates — including Cynthia Wallace, the only Charlotte resident and only woman in the primary.
Also different this time is the fact that the district has been redrawn. Bladen County, the origin point for the fraud scandal, is no longer in the 9th. Neither are Cumberland County and parts of southeastern Mecklenburg County, including Mint Hill.
Plus, other local candidates to watch for in bigger elections: Fuller’s up in the Senate primary. Also, city Councilwoman Dimple Ajmera is running for state treasurer, and stands a strong chance of winning the primary given her endorsements and financial backing.
Bill Toole, an environmental attorney and partner at Robinson, Bradshaw, & Hinson, is running in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, as is state house member Chaz Beasley. Beasley’s received a string of endorsements in the past week; Toole, meanwhile, ran a series of ads saying he’d pursue controlled access of cannabis in the Charlotte Observer’s “Journey Across The 100” online feature last week. Former south Mecklenburg state representative Scott Stone, the president of a civil engineering firm, is up for lieutenant governor in a crowded Republican primary that also includes former congresswoman Renee Ellmers.
Here’s what the ballots will look like:
Sample Democratic primary ballot for a resident of Plaza Midwood (12th congressional district):
Sample Democratic primary ballot for someone in southeast Charlotte (9th congressional district):
Sample Republican primary ballot for someone in either of Mecklenburg County’s congressional districts: