Make 2020 Your Year of Civic Engagement: Informed Voter Resources

Submitted by Durham Tech Library on

If you've decided that you're going to be a more informed voter, now is the time. Elections are coming up soon, and if you're eligible to vote and want to learn more about your choices and the issues on your ballot and how to actually cast that vote, here are some resources that you might find useful.

North Carolina state image above VOTE in a red and blue button image

First things first: Have you verified your voter registration? Have you moved recently and need to update your registration? Have you not registered to vote yet? Good news! You can do it all in one place and online through the NC State Board of Elections. The last day to register in North Carolina and not have to cast a provisional ballot is Friday, October 9.  

For a general FYI for NC voters, Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan group whose mission is to "use[] research, organizing, and advocacy to increase voter participation, reduce the influence of big money in politics and achieve a government that is truly of, by and for the people" has a general resources page that includes information on registration and polling places, in addition to a NC Voters' Bill of Rights (Spanish version is also available). 

If your primary residence is outside of North Carolina and you think you're eligible to vote, the federal government has a voter registration information page. Be aware that different states have different rules, registration deadlines, and requirements. 

Since voting-in-person may be impacted this year, you can also vote by mail with an absentee ballot

What is voting by mail? Vote by mail is often referred to as "absentee voting," and though in some states there are differences, the two are generally the same. When you vote by mail, you receive your ballot in the mail, you fill it out wherever is convenient, and then you return it, depending on the options in your community, either by mailing it or by hand-delivering it to an elections office or a designated, secure dropbox. Request your ballot today. Deadline to request your ballot in NC: by 5 PM on Tue…

You can also plan on voting early in-person. If you're a Durham County Resident, Durham Tech's Newton Building will be an early voting site. (And, Author's Note, how I plan on casting my vote this year. I love early voting-- short lines, a bubble sheet, and a sticker at the end. It's always been my preference.) 

When is Early Voting [in NC]? Early Voting in the 2020 General runs from Thursday, October 15th to Saturday, October 31st. All counties have every weekday of Early Voting open. Many counties also offer extra Saturday and/or Sunday hours.

Early voting sites will likely be different than your "assigned" Election Day voting site, so check with your county. You can also cast a provisional ballot, drop off your completed absentee ballot, or update your voter registration during early voting. 

Civic engagement with the voting process may also look like working as a poll worker, especially needed since many poll workers are retired individuals who are currently more at-risk for COVID-19. Contact your local county election board for more information

A frequent reason people give or not voting or feeling like maybe they shouldn't vote is that they don't feel informed about their candidates, the issues, or even what the people they're voting for do in the government. Informing yourself can take a little bit of time, but since local and state elections often do have big impacts on peoples lives, it's good to take the time and try to inform yourself as best as possible. It's not a graded test-- you don't have to vote for everyone on a ballot. 

NC Board of Elections Voter Search page to get a copy of your sample ballot

Step one is to look up your sample ballot so you know who you're voting for. (Author's Note: I usually print mine out so I can make notes on it. You're allowed to bring it with you to your polling place.)

If you haven't already selected who you're going to vote for, you may want to check out some voter guides to see where the candidates stand. Often there are local news or other organizations that ask the same questions to each candidate running for an office. You can find out more about your individual candidates based on their answers to questions without any additional commentary (meaning these are the answers the candidate has provided without any fact checking or editorializing by an outside source).

The following are a few non-endorsed voter guides:

You may want to do further investigating to see if candidates who have held office before actually have followed through on their campaign promises in the past, but you can also choose to use voting guides with endorsements provided by different news publications or sources with particular agenda, such as local, state, and national political parties.

For endorsed election guides, it's good practice to make sure that the group explains what their philosophy behind their candidate selection is and why they have chosen a particular candidate over another (which is good media literacy in general). Just Google "voter endorsements NC 2020" to get started. 

Your Voice, your vote. Be heard. Vote by Nov. 3.

Remember: Your vote is your own. By providing these resources, we are not encouraging your to vote one way or another or endorsing any candidates. The intent of these resources is to help you know what type of information is available to you to help make your decision.