But for the chatter of employees running one of Durham County’s five early voting locations, it was mostly silent outside Durham County Main Library Friday morning.
Every once in a while, a Durham voter made their way down the steps of the newly renovated building, but it seemed that few people were voting in person. Only ten voters made the trek in an hour.
Nellie Bellows turned out to vote because her husband told her to get it out of the way, she said. But she hasn’t really been hearing much about the elections from her friends. She cited COVID-19 and the isolation that has followed as a possible reason why people have not heard much about this year’s municipal election.
Early voting for the primary began Thursday and will run until Oct. 2. There are five early voting locations: Durham County Main Library, North Regional Library, South Regional Library, East Regional Library and North Carolina Central University’s Turner Law Building.
Durham residents will be voting for contested races in Wards I and II during the primary. They’ll also cast ballots to elect a new mayor to replace Steve Schewel, who announced earlier this year he will not be running for a third term. Seven candidates are vying for the office. The top two vote-getters in each primary race will move on to the Nov. 2 general election.
Ashley and Cody Strahm, a married couple from Duke Park, went out on the hot, cloudy morning to cast their votes. The couple is passionate about local elections, they said, and heard about early voting through a neighborhood group email list.
“Everyone knows the national elections are important, but not everyone knows about the local elections, and we love Durham, so we think these elections are important because we want to continue to see it go in a positive direction,” Cody said.
Some citizens don’t feel there’s as much at stake in local elections since many of the candidates identify as Democrats, he added.
“I think we all are progressive, so lots of people probably think there’s less on the line,” he said.
When Duke graduate student Hananiel Setiawan visited the library to vote, he lamented how little his classmates knew about local elections. Ever since he moved to Durham for school in 2017, he has participated in every election.
“People just take it for granted. Of course, there’s this Duke bubble, and some people don’t really think about Durham,” he said.
He said Duke’s Graduate and Professional Student Government, a group he is a part of, hopes to raise awareness about local government this year. They plan to invite the winners of the mayoral primary to come speak at one of their meetings.
Through two days of early voting, 648 early voting ballots had been cast, according to the Durham County Board of Elections unofficial count. That number falls well short of the over 27,000 ballots cast in the first two days of early voting for the high profile 2020 general election.
During early voting, Durhamites can go to any site and register to vote through same-day registration and update their names and addresses if need be.
If you want to register, you will need to bring valid identification, including a North Carolina Drivers license, a government photo ID, or a document that proves the name and address of the citizen.
For more information on when and how to vote in the 2021 Durham city elections, check out our article on important dates and voting rules.
The 9th Street Journal will continue to cover the city elections. Check in with us for more candidates profiles, campaign coverage and other important updates. You can submit questions and news tips to our staff by emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At top: A sign marks the Durham County Main Library early in-person voting location, where a few voters cast their ballots in the municipal primary Friday morning. 9th Street Journal photo by Rebecca Schneid.