Preparing to vote
The chances of North Carolina switching to a secure “vote-by-mail” system by November are about as slim as a virus vaccine being available then that would make it safe to line up at the polls. However, as a recent letter (“Voting by mail,” April 29) notes, absentee voting already is available to every registered North Carolina voter with no special circumstances needed. While absentee voting is not complicated, there are some moving parts. Therefore, now is the time for voters to familiarize themselves with the process.
The voter or a close family member must mail a ballot request form to the county Board of Elections. Request forms can be printed from the N.C. State Board of Elections website or by calling the Forsyth County Board of Elections to ask for a form by mail. Two witnesses must sign the official return envelope attesting to the voter’s identity, but one can be the voter’s spouse. (Witnesses should not see the voter’s choices.) The voter then can check the state Board of Elections website after about a week to see if his or her ballot was received and processed.
Several nonpartisan organizations’ websites — League of Women Voters, YouCanVote and Democracy Now — provide clear instructions in addition to those of the state and county boards of election.
By preparing now to vote absentee, voters will not to have to choose between participating in democracy in November and personal safety if COVID-19 mounts a second wave in the fall.
If I had a dollar for every time someone said they are grateful that the pandemic stay-at-home orders are in the springtime rather than the winter, I’d ... well you know. That would be bad enough, but now imagine living under stay-at-home orders during tornadoes, the North Carolina hurricane season which begins in a few weeks, the wildfire season out west or the flood season in the Midwest. Imagine you, your loved ones or other Americans being forced out of their home for days, weeks or even months and having to live in a school gymnasium during this or the next Pandemic. Not good.
Our current representatives in Washington and the N.C. legislature seem blind to the climate crisis and the worsening and more frequent storms, floods, wildfires, and crop failures. So I am watching challengers for three races here. So far, I like Terri LeGrand for N.C. Senate District 31, Dan Besse for N.C. House District 74 and Cal Cunningham to replace Sen. Thom Tillis. Tillis started out in office with his electorate in mind, but has shifted to supporting polluters and the anti-environment agenda in Washington. I am following LeGrand, Besse and Cunningham and know that they would do better for us in so many areas like health care, clean energy jobs, education, fair elections, honest government and the environment. It is not too soon to start to pick your favorites and support their campaigns with your time and donations.
It’s painfully clear: the COVID-19 crisis is a tragedy of epic proportions. Hundreds of North Carolinians are dead, thousands are infected, and almost a million are unemployed. The statistics are sadly even more sobering around the nation and the world.
Yet in this era of inexorable sadness, I see a silver lining: the reemergence of our collective social capital.
In 1993, the political scientist Robert Putnam coined the term “social capital”: a society’s ability to respect, trust and cooperate with one another to create a civil society. Since then, the rise of technology, the decline of social organizations and political polarization hit America’s social capital hard. But just as we have historically come together in wartime, we have done so again.
From Asheville to Wilmington, ordinary citizens are evolving into extraordinary activists.
Neighbors collecting food and knitting masks. Teachers supporting their students through fear and uncertainty. Urbanites starting mutual aid organizations to get help to those who need it the most: the indigent. Local businesses adapting and innovating to provide necessary, everyday commodities. And, of course, our health care heroes fighting daily on the frontline.
It is social capital — often hidden yet always ingrained within our souls — that fuels such altruism.
Government solutions are only as effective as the civil society surrounding them. If that is indeed the benchmark, North Carolina is clearly well-placed on the long and arduous road to recovery. And this writer can’t help but feel a sense of cautious optimism for the future.
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