Low Turnout, No Media Coverage

Wake County Media CoverageNorth Carolina’s rule that a person clear 40 percent had some logic back when the Democratic Party was dominant from, say, the 1890s to the 1980s. It was put in place by the Democrats to broaden support for the party in what was essentially a single-party state for much of the twentieth century.

Today, the rule may be outdated.

But the perverse logic of it is that a paltry 2 percent of eligible voters yesterday decided who the Republican nominee would be. (This isn’t a commentary that they got that decision right or wrong; merely a statement about how so few people ultimately chose the nominee on behalf of an entire county party.)

In part, the low turn out – about 9,000 total votes cast out of 300,000 possible, reflected the fact that the only race was a Republican run-off in a low-turnout primary.

However, the media bear some blame. There was very little coverage of the primary itself, and the SEANC issue that received the most coverage was first aired on this blog, and then picked up by WRAL, Indy Weekly, etc. only after they were prompted.

A WRAL commenter wrote earlier this morning about coverage here that:

Sad testimony about journalism that the best coverage of the DA race came from a law firm’s blog.

No televised or radio-broadcasted debates. Nothing but the most perfunctory listing of bios. The Indy Week had a fairly lively comment section, and Bob Geary posting a number of blog posts. But, really that was about it.

When I got to my polling station at just after 6:00 pm yesterday, I was the only voter, and by that point, only the 28th voter of the day.

Local Races Are Important

In some ways, local races are far more important than federal races. And the Wake County District Attorney’s race is the most important local race in the Triangle, and more important than many state-wide races given that the Wake DA is charged with prosecuting state corruption cases and cases whose jurisdiction has been especially assigned to Wake County.

The election is not over. The media can do a better job: air some interviews with candidates or, better yet, sponsor and host a televised debate or two. Some in-depth reporting on the race or courthouse issues. Who has a better plan for fixing our overcrowded courtrooms, for instance? How would they manage the staff and train new prosecutors?

What would they do to improve pay for prosecutors to ensure the recruitment of capable people?

It’s the first time in more than a quarter century that Wake County voters have a real choice about who will be their elected DA. The media can help, but only if it reports.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.