RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Advocacy groups are engaging in several voting outreach drives ahead of the state's registration deadline for next month's primary election.
"Voting is important. It's the most basic right that you have as a citizen. If you want change in your community, voting at the ballot box is the first way to make that change. It's your power as an individual citizen of this country, and we encourage people to vote and make sure their vote counts. That is making sure that they've checked their address, making sure they have ID, make sure they bring it, and make sure they're encouraging others and spreading that message to everyone who they come in contact with," said Cheryl Tung, President of the League of Women Voters of Wake County.
The group held an event at Wake Tech last month, and plans to visit again next week, part of a push to connect with students.
"We know that in previous years, the voter turnout for the youth, voter turnout has been maybe a little lower than we'd like to see. And that is where we can make the most impact," said Tung.
There is progress being made in terms of youth voter turnout. According to CIRCLE at Tufts University, it's estimated that half of 18-29 year-olds voted in the 2020 presidential election, an 11% increase from the 2016 election. In North Carolina, the rate was 55%, including 53% of 18-19 year-olds.
"There's a lot of education because primaries work different in every state and then for young people and new voters and first time voters that have maybe never participated in a primary, we just have to educate them on why voting in primary elections is just so important," said Kate Fellman, Founder and Executive Director of You Can Vote.
The group is hosting a series of events across the Triangle ahead of Friday's voter registration deadline, making stops at Oak City Cares and the Southeast Raleigh YMCA Monday to encourage sign-ups.
"We talk about it in terms of it's the first bracket, it's the first division before the championship, and that really helps people get their head around why their voice matters in primary elections," said Fellman.
Fellman also encouraged voters to pay attention to down-ballot races during the primaries.
"I talk to people all the time and they tell me, "I'm not voting. I don't know if I want to vote in the primaries. I don't like either of (President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump.' And I say, 'either of who?' There are multiple people running for office on both the Republican and the Democratic primary side. There's a governor's race, a lieutenant governor's race, the Council of State. And then there's all those local races like county commissioner and school board," Fellman explained.
In North Carolina, 17-year-olds are able to vote in primary elections as long as they turn 18 by Election Day. Further, unaffiliated voters, which make up the largest group of voters in the state, are able to participate in primaries as well.
"Getting your voice in in these in these elections is so important to have a voice locally and have that voice count when it matters," said Fellman.
Monday, Reverend William Barber and the Poor People's Campaign announced it would launch outreach efforts in 30 states, including North Carolina, ahead of the general election.
"If a (candidate) wants these votes, then talk to this bloc of voters like you have never talked to them before. We must wake up this sleeping giant," said Barber.
The group stated that 44% of North Carolina's voting population would fit the description of "low-wage workers" in 2020, noting their size could sway elections.
"In North Carolina, the margin of victory for president was (about) 170,000 votes. In 2016, 920,000 poor and low-wage eligible voters did not vote. It would only take 18.9% of low-income, low-wage non-voters to match or succeed the margin of voters in that state. We have power. We've got to use it," Barber explained.
According to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, statewide turnout in the 2020 general election was 75.35%, an increase of more than 6% from 2016. However, turnout in the primary election that year was just 31.19%, a drop of 4.5% from 2016, and the lowest in a presidential year since 2004.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a sharp rise in absentee by-mail voting in the 2020 general election, with 18% of voters casting their ballots in their fashion, compared to just 4% in 2016. In the 2022 general election, the figure of absentee by-mail voting was 5%, though that was still higher than the 3% rate in the 2018 midterms.
To learn how to register to vote, click here.