• 59°

Guest Opinion: Record turnout in NC shows broad voting access can benefit all parties

By Bob Phillips

Voter turnout in North Carolina’s election this year reached a record high 75%. That’s reason to celebrate for anyone who believes in a thriving democracy. It’s all the more remarkable given the election was conducted amid a global pandemic.

By and large, voting in North Carolina went smoothly. We witnessed a new high for early voting, unprecedented numbers of voters casting a ballot by mail and a strong finish on Election Day.

The voters of North Carolina did our job – we turned out at historic levels to make our voices heard. And our excellent election administrators did their job – ensuring a fair, accurate and complete count of all votes.

The success of North Carolina’s election is due to many factors. First and foremost, thanks must be given to our state and county boards of elections staff who rose admirably to the challenges of running an election impacted by COVID-19. Thanks should also be given to the thousands of poll workers who dedicated their time to ensure voters were able to cast a ballot safely and securely in person.

Appreciation should be given to legislators who this summer worked in a bipartisan way to allocate resources to help our state conduct an election amid the pandemic. Ultimately, praise should be directed most of all to the voters of North Carolina, who participated in the election like never before, and did so with enthusiasm and determination.

One of the key reasons that North Carolina was prepared for the 2020 election was our state already had in place successful innovations like early voting, same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting. Without this broad accessibility, many voters across the political spectrum would have been left behind and disenfranchised.

It should be noted that in 2013, Republican leaders in the legislature attempted to end same-day registration and gut early voting. But thanks to a coalition of everyday North Carolinians and good-government groups pushing back, the courts stopped that naked attempt at voter suppression and restored voting accessibility.

As a result, North Carolina voters had a variety of options to cast a ballot this year and data clearly shows that benefited Republicans and Democrats alike. For instance, 65.52% of Republican voters opted for mail-in or early voting, on par with the 65.66% of Democratic voters. Republican voters also outperformed their share of the electorate in absentee and early voting: while 30% of North Carolina voters are registered Republicans, nearly 32% of early and absentee ballots were cast by Republicans.

The lesson learned by both sides of the aisle should be this: your party can win when voting is made accessible for all North Carolinians. In turn, hopefully the legislature will not return to the ugly attempts at suppression that hurt voters and marred our state’s reputation in the past.

Instead, let’s build on this year’s success. Let’s continue to look for ways to ensure every eligible voter is able to fully participate in free and fair elections, without discrimination or barriers to the ballot box, and encourage voters to stay engaged in the governing process beyond Election Day. That’s what democracy ought to look like, every year.

Bob Phillips is executive director of Common Cause NC, a nonpartisan organization.

FOR MORE COLUMNS AND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, CHECK OUT OUR OPINION SECTION HERE.

News

Lane closures for inspection of Marc Basnight Bridge to begin Monday

News

Dare commissioners support amending Hatteras Inlet’s federal authorization

Lifestyles

Outer Banks Community Foundation now accepting applications for Dorian long-term recovery grants

News

Virtual update on Rodanthe bridge set

News

NC gun provisions in vetoed 2020 bill clear committees

News

Summer school to counter COVID online learning approved by House

News

North Carolina man shot after forcibly entering deputy’s home

News

Cooper lifts curfew, eases gathering and occupancy limits

News

In Nags Head: Kitty Hawk Watersports receives approval for new dock; town subsidizes recycling subscription program

Currituck

Currituck commissioners honor Judge Cole upon retirement from Superior Court

News

Nags Head Planning Board continues to refine lighting regulations, changes to UDO regarding nonconforming hotels

Crime

Federal prosecutors: North Carolina woman went shopping with $150K COVID relief loan

News

NC woman wins $139,140 Cash 5 jackpot with Online Play ticket

Business

Lowe’s fourth quarter results surge as people plow money into homes

Crime

North Carolina woman indicted in husband’s shooting death

News

Kill Devil Hills woman scores half of $536,264 Cash 5 jackpot

News

Tourism Board to help with Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station repairs

Crime

Sheriff: Twelve malnourished dogs rescued from North Carolina home

News

Cooper orders flags lowered to half-staff in remembrance of lives lost to COVID-19

News

Insurance commissioner urges caution when using portable heaters

Crime

Suspect dead, deputy wounded in gunfire during North Carolina traffic stop

News

North Carolina zoo announces death of Pigeon the red wolf

News

North Carolina weekly gas price update: Prices up again

News

Kill Devil Hills Planning Board approves parking request for hotels and motels