“Yep, you got a notice from the state of Illinois today—they are worried you are no longer registered to vote there.”
My cousin Austin and I both laughed. He hasn’t lived in Illinois in several years.
“I threw it out,” I said.
“Yeah, it sounds like you made the right call on that one,” he agreed.
Austin used to live in the house I renovated into a bed and breakfast—which opened last week. Though he has relocated, he still gets an extraordinary amount of mail there. The notification about his voter status caught my eye and got me thinking: Shouldn’t early voting start soon? We are moments from election season.
A quick visit to the New Hanover County Board of Elections website confirmed, yes, one-stop voting begins on Wednesday, October 17. The locations for one-stop voting are the New Hanover County Government Center, the New Hanover County Senior Center, Northeast Regional Library, Carolina Beach Municipal Complex, and Cape Fear Community College (downtown location). Altogether, one-stop voting—or “early voting,” as many people call it—will be available to the public for 860 hours.
Uncertain about your voter registration? Concerns people have about being dropped from voter rolls is real, and you can make sure your voter registration is active and accurate at the NHC Board of Elections website (elections.nhcgov.com).
Unsure where to go to vote? The site can also help locate the precinct to cast a ballot on Election Day rather than utilize one-stop voting.
Need an absentee ballot and directions for acquiring one? There is a wealth of municipal information on the website.
Almost every election someone gives me a litany of reasons why they didn’t vote: Didn’t have time, didn’t know where to go or didn’t register. Even more infuriating, they didn’t know who to vote for. So the New Hanover County Board of Elections has made all the information easily available.
You can register to vote when updating your driver’s license … or at the NHC Board of Elections … or at multiple places of business. Voter registration drives on college campuses are a frequent occurrence. Anyone who sees me on the street is welcome to stop me and ask! I carry voter registration forms in my purse in case I ever run into someone who needs them. (Yep, pity the poor kids who work the supermarket checkout line and routinely get asked by me if they need to register to vote.) I am not alone in this. I can name at least five other women I know who do this right now.
The NHC Board of Elections website also lists all candidates running for office and has sample copies of the ballot for each precinct available to preview.
Now, as for the “I don’t know who to vote for” statement, well, leading up to an election, most candidates are interviewed by multiple media outlets in an effort to ascertain their positions on issues and make information as widely available to the electorate as possible (go to encorepub.com and type in a candidate’s name in the search to find previous interviews we have run over the last year). The effort required to learn about the candidates is pretty minimal—most of them have Facebook pages at the very least.
Perhaps the subtext of “I don’t know who to vote for” is actually about uncertainty regarding candidate platforms. There are a lot of lightning-rod issues that come out at election time (women’s access to health care, immigration, border issues, etc.). And there are issues that impact the daily lives of the electorate—like safe drinking water. Between Gen-X, the hog-waste spills from the storm and the coal ash in the Cape Fear River, do you want to serve the city’s tap water to children? Pets? It is an issue that very directly impacts all of our daily lives. Which candidates are talking about actual solutions to the problem? Which candidates are prepared to fight in the long term for our drinking water?
Are you a student in college or community college? Do you have children in school? Which candidates are interested in concrete improvements to education, and improving funding for better quality schools for both students and teachers? Who supports protections for student loans and greater access to high education? They might be questions to consider when looking at candidate platforms.
We all have lenses through which we see the world. We are shaped by our experiences, values, desires, and biases (unconscious and otherwise). Perhaps now is a good time to sit and ask what, exactly, you want in an elected representative? If you could fantasy cast a person and build them from the ground up, like in a role-playing game, who would it be? Male or female? Young or old? With a college degree and gainful employment? What signals do these answers send to you unconsciously? Are you building a representative that looks like you? Do you see yourself currently represented in an elected office? Would you feel differently about the political process if you did? Are the signals stronger for you than a serious look at a candidate platform?
No one can answer the questions except you. If you find yourself disillusioned with the candidates who do run for office, perhaps you might consider running for office yourself.
In the next few weeks, please, take a few minutes to review your voter registration. Check your polling location, and make a date with a special someone to share the excitement of voting on November 6. A lot of people have fought and died so we might have this privilege. Honor them by exercising it.
More so, please, walk over to your sink and turn on the tap. Pour a glass of water and ask yourself how safe you feel drinking it. Do you deserve someone who will fight for your ability to drink a glass of clean water?
Plan a day this week to sit down and look at the candidate platforms to make an informed decision in the upcoming election. Local offices—NHC School Board, NHC County Commission and NC General Assembly—greatly impact our daily lives. So often these are the offices that get ignored. If you have the privilege of voting, make your voice heard. Think carefully about the impact it will have on those who can’t vote, who depend upon others to care for their well-being.