Prepare now to vote in November

Prepare now to vote in November
September 16
16:30 2020

Here’s a must-do list to prepare for the election

By Howard Pearre

You’ve heard it over and over: make sure you vote on November 3! But voting is not just a one-day deal.  There’s work to do now to get ready. Here are a few items for every voter’s to-do list: 

1. Check the N.C. State Board of Elections website,, to make sure you are “Active” and that your address is correct. (Find VOTER/ABSENTEE LOOKUP under VOTER TOOLS.)  If you have moved since the last election, even across the street, you may have a new assigned polling place and your ballot will be different from the one you would have had at your previous address. If you show up at the voting place for your new address but haven’t updated your registration, you will be asked to cast a provisional ballot. 

To look yourself up in the Board of Elections’ database, you can go to the NCSBE website, as above, or Google search NC VOTER LOOKUP, click on VOTER SEARCH, enter your first and last names, click SEARCH, and click on the name and address that matches your information. This will take you to a page with your personal voter information including your status as ACTIVE or INACTIVE.  If you are listed as INACTIVE or are not in the database, you will need to submit a new NC Voter Registration Application to the Board of Elections. You have several options how to do this: 

*You can obtain an official Voter Registration form from the Forsyth County Board of Elections office or other source, complete it with your new and old addresses, sign it, and mail, fax, scan email, or hand carry it to the Forsyth County Board of Elections. You must do this at least 25 days before Election Day (Oct. 9).

*If you miss the 25-day deadline, you can go to any of the Forsyth County early voting sites and complete a Voter Registration form. To update your registration (or to register for the first time) and vote at the same time, you will need documentation with your name and new address such as your driver’s license, a utility bill, or bank statement. 

*If you have an N.C. driver’s license, you can use the Division of Motor Vehicles website to update your voter registration or even register for the first time. Google search REGISTER TO VOTE NC ONLINE, click OFFICIAL NCDMV VOTER REGISTRATION APPLICATION-NCDOT, and follow the links to use this free service.   

*If you can’t use any of the above methods to update your registration, you can send a letter to the county Board of Elections advising them of your new and old address. Be sure to sign the letter and include your phone number so an election’s official can call you if there are any questions.

2. Learn where the early-voting sites will be. During early voting from Oct. 15 through Oct. 31, you can vote at any early-voting site in the county regardless of your assigned polling place. The Forsyth County Board’s plan is for 17 sites for the November General Election. If the State Board of Elections approves the plan, early-voting sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on two Saturdays, Oct. 17 and Oct. 24; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on two Sundays, Oct. 18 and 25.

3. Review a sample ballot to become knowledgeable of the candidates in the races. Google search NC VOTER LOOKUP and follow the same steps noted above to find your personal voter information. Click on SAMPLE BALLOTS that will indicate candidates for races in your specific precinct.

4. Don’t ignore the “down ballot” candidates. Get to know ALL of the candidates in order make smart choices according to your values and interests. While the major media outlets will provide information, occasionally slanted, and advertising about the major races, you may have to dig to find information about some of the “down-ballot” candidates even though the positions they are seeking have great bearing on our lives.  

For example, the state legislative races sometimes get lost in the glare of the presidential, U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and statewide races. Even though their jobs are always vitally important in many ways, the men and women we elect to the N.C. Legislature this time will have an especially critical duty: drawing the district lines for the 13 (or more, depending on Census results) representatives from our state to the U.S. House of Representatives for an entire upcoming decade. 

Certainly, this deserves strong consideration, along with state taxes, Medicaid expansion, public education funding in the time of COVID, and environmental laws as we decide who to send to the N.C. Legislature.

City council members, county commissioners, school board members, and other local elected officials make decisions that affect our lives daily about textbooks, sidewalks, parks, property tax rates, speed limits, teacher pay, building permits, zoning, trash pickup, volunteer fire department support, locations for new schools, police and sheriff’s department funding, and a host of other issues.

Judges’ races often get little attention from media outlets. The Judicial Voter Guide 2020 will be sent to all registered voters in the next several weeks by the state Board of Elections. This non-partisan guide provides basic information about judicial candidates’ experience and qualifications, along with statements from the candidates about themselves.

One source of information about all candidates not to overlook is their websites. Since candidates are asking us to hire them, their websites are like job seekers’ resumes which reflect them in the best possible light as to experience, professional achievements, personal information, and what they hope to accomplish. 

Finally, two other excellent resources that strive to avoid bias are VOTE411.ORG, from the League of Women Voters, and BALLOTPEDIA.ORG. In addition to essential comparative information about candidates, the Ballotpedia resource also provides specific data about campaign contributions and spending.  

Whether we decide to vote in person on Election Day, at an early-voting site, or by absentee ballot, it’s up to each of us to do the prep work now. 

Howard Pearre conducts training sessions for volunteers to assist with voter registration. He is a member of Winston-Salem Writers and recently received an honorable mention for his short story, “September, 1957,” at the 2020 International Human Rights Arts Festival.

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