On Tuesday, May 8, Jackson County residents turned out to vote on a number of key issues.
One of these issues was the proposed Amendment to the North Carolina Constitution, which defines a marriage as a union between one man and one woman to be the only marriage valid and recognized by the State.
This issue has produced a massive amount of controversy with opponents alleging that the amendment would unfairly target gay and lesbian minorities. Supporters, however, maintain that the definition of marriage should be determined by the people, which happened on May 8.
For the Constitutional Amendment vote, Jackson County residents voted 61.69 percent in favor of the marriage amendment, commonly referred to as “Amendment One.” In total, 9,250 people voted for this amendment, almost double than the number of residents who voted in the primaries. This reflects the amount of controversy and media coverage that has surrounded Amendment One.
Already, there is an N.C. law a in place that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This new amendment will cause problems for domestic partners with children. If the couple has a child and is not married, the child cannot receive the health insurance benefits of either parent.
While a yearlong ad campaign across WCU was undertaken by Amendment One opponents, the results of the vote echoes the conservative values of the mountain residents in Jackson County. Plus, with the lack of young voters, the vote was likely left to residents who grew up in a time when homosexual rights was still placed under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
Statewide, Amendment One was passed by an even larger margin, gaining over 1.3 million “For” votes to win by 61 percent. In a state where the number of residents who voted for the Presidential Preferences for Democrat and Republican was nearly the same with over 966,000 votes, the vote for Amendment One reflects the conservative values normally associated with Republicans but also a tradition in the South where many conservatives are registered Democrats.
Also on the ballot on May 8 was the alcohol referendum. With Jackson County a “dry” county, meaning the sale of alcohol outside of city limits is forbidden, many business owners and alcohol drinkers petitioned for a chance to have their votes heard in this issue.
The Jackson County ballots contained four alcohol related votes. The first dealt with the sale of “malt beverages,” meaning beer, ale and lager and the second with the sale of “unfortified wine,” simply meaning fermented grape or apple juice. The third countywide referenda was for permission of the operation of Alcohol Beverage Commission stores, or ABC stores. Such stores specifically sell liquors and spirits, including vodka, whisky and gin, to those of legal drinking age. The fourth and final vote related to alcohol permits the sale of “mixed beverages in hotels, restaurants, private clubs, community theaters and convention centers.”
Over 9,100 Jackson County voters turned out in each of the four votes, with each referendum being passed by a margin of at least 56 percent, with the ABC Store vote gaining the highest margin of “For” votes at 59.46 percent.
The successful passing of these four alcohol referenda means massive changes are coming to the area. Along with revitalizing the local businesses already in the area by allowing them to sell alcohol, these referenda will also attract new businesses like ABC stores. Many residents are hoping that this will stimulate the local economy, but this will also attract many new residents and tourists to the area, which may compromise the small town feel of Cullowhee and the surrounding areas.
Jackson County is the third county to vote for this change in western North Carolina, which shows a trend of increasing departure from the conservative nature of the area, which, oddly enough, contradicts the conservative voting results of Amendment One.