Election day color: on the ground during the Winston-Salem municipal primary

South Ward candidate Carolyn Highsmith greets voter Ben Marsh.
Carolyn Highsmith, the challenger in the Democratic primary, took off her name badge and went in the polling place at Philo-Hill Middle School to find out how many people had voted.

The tally was 17, and it was already about 10:15 a.m.

"If we're not going get any better than this, we're not going to get anywhere," Highsmith said.

Closer to downtown at Diggs-Latham Elementary School, Clevetta Gilliam, a campaign worker for Mayor Allen Joines was working the polls for her candidate, while encouraging voters to pull the lever for Molly Leight, the incumbent South Ward representative and Highsmith's opponent.

She found a receptive audience with Doug Lewis and his wife.

"Are you considering voting for Allen Joines?" Gilliam asked.

"Oh yes," the Lewises responded.

"And Molly Leight in the South Ward?"

"For sure."

Doug Lewis said he worked with Joines as a representative of the arts council in the early 1970s on the renovation of the Sawtooth School of Visual Arts and development of Winston Square Park. Joines worked for the city at the time.

It was natural for Lewis to also support Leight, a fellow resident of the Washington Park neighborhood.

"She's a responsive representative," he said. "She's well liked. She listens well. She returns calls."

Four years ago, the precinct at Diggs-Latham Elementary School had the highest turnout in the South Ward primary and gave Leight her largest share of votes.

The total number of votes cast on election day in the precinct during the 2009 primary was 129. By 10:15 a.m. today, only 27 people had voted.


Voter turnout has been strong across the Northeast Ward, where two well qualified challengers, Brenda Diggs and Jemmise Bowen, are seeking to unseat Vivian Burke, who has held the seat since 1977.

At John Wesley AME Zion Church, a precinct that serves the area near the LaDeara Crest public housing community, the vote total after lunch tallied at 46 — nearly twice the total for the entire day during the 2009 primary.

Similarly, at Carver High School, 89 votes had been cast, compared to 70 for the entire day in 2009.

And at the Mazie Woodruff Center — the Northeast Ward's busiest precinct — 115 votes had been cast by 12:30 p.m., besting the day-long total of 92 in 2009.

"No comparison," said Mildred Strange, an election judge for the precinct.


Allen Joines' campaign workers, dressed in blue T-shirts, have been ubiquitous at polling stations across the city today, and not just in the Northeast, East, Southeast, Northwest and South Wards, where contested primaries for ward seats are likely to drive the turnout of Democratic and unaffiliated voters who can vote for the Democratic mayor. Joines has also had campaign workers in West Ward precincts such as First Christian Church and Calvary Baptist Church, where the only other race on the ballot is a Republican primary for the ward representative.

Steve Strawsburg, one of Joines' three campaign co-chairs, was working the polling place outside of First Christian Church.

"We're going to get a solid turnout for a contested Democratic primary," he said. "That's why we're here — to talk to voters."

That was an easy sell with Sam Owen, a former head of the city's information systems department, who was a colleague of Joines when the mayor worked for the city.

"He's a very competent person," Owen said. "I think he's done an excellent job as mayor.

"He represents the city well," Owen added. "When I see him up there I have confidence in the city. We're going in the right direction. Good things are happening."

Not everyone was following the mayor's song sheet.

Spencer Drummond, who rode his bicycle to First Christian Church, said he wants to see change.

"When people have been in there too long, everybody has to get through them to get around them," he said. "That helps create a problem. I even feel that way about Supreme Court justices.

Drummond said he has been passing out fliers for Gardenia Henley, Joines' challenger in the mayoral primary for five months.

"Nothing changes if you don't vote to make a change," he said.

Steve Strawsburg greets a voter outside of First Christian Church.

Forsyth County Elections Director said turnout overall has been light, although it has been "a little higher in the Northwest Ward," where three candidates — Jeff MacIntosh, Noah Reynolds and Laura Elliott — are competing in the Democratic primary to replace Councilwoman Wanda Merschel, who announced earlier this year that she would not seek an another term.

Coffman predicted turnout for the primary will fall in the range of 6 to 10 percent. In comparison, less than 4 percent of registered voters took part in the 2009 municipal primary.

Early voting nearly tripled from 2009 to 2013, from about 700 to 2,400 votes.

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