Yesterday’s second North Carolina primary election of 2016 was a ridiculous affair in a lot of ways. The absurd ads and cringe-inducing claims of the various candidates — perhaps most notably in the second congressional district, where it often seemed the candidates in the GOP primary were doing all they could to imitate the tone of the GOP presidential primary season — gave voice to some of the worst that modern American politics have to offer.
But the most significant and disturbing problem with yesterday’s event, of course, was the fact that it took place at all. The second primary was made necessary by a combination of factors — all attributable to the conservative majority running the North Carolina General Assembly. Topping this list was the outrageously gerrymandered congressional map that the state has been operating under for years until the courts forced lawmakers to redraw it earlier this year at a point in time that made it impossible to get it done prior to the March primary (which had been moved up from its normal slot in May by the General Assembly in a futile attempt to become “relevant” in the national presidential primary process).
What this all means is that because of gerrymandering (and don’t kid yourself, the new map is just as unfair), North Carolina was forced to have a congressional primary yesterday that hardly anyone was aware of or voted in. Look at the numbers. Statewide turnout was 8% – yes 8%!!
Look at what that meant in the new 13th congressional district in which 17 candidates sought the Republican nomination. The winner, a gun shop owner named Ted Budd making his first run for public office secured the nomination (and thereby, almost assuredly, a seat in Congress in the safe Republican district) with a winning total of 6,308 votes. That represents 0.008% of the 733,499 people in the district!
Even in the much more highly publicized 2nd district, George Holding won with 16,999 votes. That’s just 2.3% of the people in district.
This is close to madness. In such an environment, the power of a few wealthy powers that be is all but irresistible.
The bottom line: For years, forces on the far right has been trying to suppress voter turnout in North Carolina. Yesterday, we got another troubling glimpse of what things look like when they get their way.