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Late last night, flying back from my first parents weekend, I was thinking about today, election day.

Elections matter, y’all. 

Do your research if you haven’t already, and go vote.

Understanding the election and the politics of othering

Today, across North Carolina, 7,092,686 of you are registered to vote. There are 2,688,921 Democrats, 2,252,808 Unaffiliated, and 2,112,130 Republicans, with some of you also registered as Green, Constitution, and Libertarian. 

This is a blue moon election, which happens every 12 years, when there are no statewide races.

We will be watching the votes on six constitutional amendments as an indicator of statewide voting trends.

Back in 1994, when Republicans won 92 of the 170 seats in the legislature, I asked whether the wins were reactionary — anti-Democrat, anti-tax, anti-big government; revolutionary — a changing of the guard from Democrats who governed for most of the 20th century to Republicans who were hoping to govern for much of the 21st century; or evolutionary — a single step towards becoming a competitive, two-party state. The elections in 2018 and 2020 will become an important part of our state’s story about the evolution of party politics. 

Many of us are watching the unaffiliated voters. Can large numbers of you be wooed by a party, by an issue, or by particular candidates?

In North Carolina, we like to vote for incumbents and name recognition matters. Going forward we need to better understand if and how North Carolina voters will continue to split tickets.

The 2020 election will be another 10-year election, and the party that wins the majority will be able to draw the redistricting maps, build momentum, and raise lots of money. Stay tuned.

Fancy clothes and overalls

A little boy and his father walk into a firehouse. He smiles at people standing outside. Some hand pamphlets to his father. They stand in line. Finally, they go into a small booth, pull the curtain closed, and vote. His father holds the boy up and shows him which levers to move.

“We’re ready, Wade, pull the big lever now.”

With both hands, the boy pulls the lever. There it is: the sound of voting. The curtain opens. The boy smiles at an old woman leaving another booth and at a mother and daughter getting into line.

He is not certain exactly what they have done. He only knows that he and his father have done something important. They have voted.

This scene takes place all over the country.
“Pull the lever, Yolanda.”
“Drop the ballot in the box for me, Pedro.”

Wades, Yolandas, Pedros, Nikitas, and Chuis all over the United States are learning the same lesson: the satisfaction, pride, importance, and habit of voting. I have always gone with my parents to vote. Sometimes the lines are long. There are faces of old people and young people, voices of native North Carolinians in southern drawls and voices of naturalized citizens with their foreign accents. There are people in fancy clothes and others dressed in overalls. Each has exactly the same one vote. Each has exactly the same say in the election. There is no place in America where
equality means as much as in the voting booth.

My father took me that day to the firehouse. Soon I will be voting. It is a responsibility and a right.
It is also an exciting national experience. Voters have different backgrounds, dreams, and experience, but that is the whole point of voting. Different voices will be heard.

As I get close to the time I can register and vote, it is exciting. I become one of the voices. I know I will vote in every election. I know that someday I will bring my son with me and introduce him to one of the great American experiences: voting.

A high school student at Broughton High School named Wade Edwards once won the National Endowment for the Humanities and Voice of America national essay contest for this essay. Wade was the son of John and Elizabeth and the brother of Cate. Just after Wade died and before John was involved in politics, the family gave the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research permission to publish Wade’s essay to remind future young voters of the importance of this right and responsibility.

Vote today so all of our different voices across North Carolina are heard. Take the time to explain how you vote and why you vote to your children.

First Vote NC

In high schools across North Carolina, today students will participate in EdNC’s First Vote NC

Students across NC exercise their voice and their vote on EdNC’s First Vote NC platform

Sponsored by the State Employees Credit Union Foundation, our national award winning program offers students the opportunity to participate in an online, simulated election, authentic down to the customized ballot based on the address of the student’s school and an “I VOTED” sticker. 

Thank you to our teachers who want our next generation of students to graduate civic ready.

Tonight

I follow Jonathan Kappler, my colleague and the executive director of The NC Free Enterprise Foundation, on Twitter at @jonathankappler for the latest on the elections.

Share your favorite stories of voting — “the satisfaction, pride, importance, and habit of voting” — with me on Twitter today @Mebane_Rash.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.