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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: How and why to vote

gerry cohen
Gerry Cohen, former Chapel Hill Town Council member, is the OC Voice columnist for the week of Sept. 30. Photo courtesy of Gerry Cohen.

The OC Voice is a portion of the OC Report newsletter where local residents may have a platform to talk about local issues they care about. Gerry Cohen is a member of the Wake County Board of Elections and was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council while a UNC student in 1973.

While attention is focused on the presidential election a year away, this academic year there are two important elections in Orange County. On March 3 there is the North Carolina presidential primary, but even before that, local elections are Nov. 5 for mayor and governing boards in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, as well as Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board.

For the Chapel Hill and Carrboro elections, the regular voter registration period ends next week on Oct. 11, though you can also register to vote on site at early voting.

Most municipalities across the state also vote Nov. 5, although elections in Raleigh and Cary for mayor and council are Oct. 8 with potential Nov. 5 runoffs. (Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Asheville do NOT have local elections this fall). It’s also possible to vote by mail regardless of where you are registered.

If you registered to vote in Orange County this year or in a prior year (such as 2016 for president or the 2018 midterm) and still live in Orange County, you are already eligible to vote for the Nov. 5 election. There’s been 1,421 new Chapel Hill and Carrboro voter registrations since Aug. 1.

If you are already registered in Orange County but moved within the county, you must update your address, easiest done during early voting. As mentioned, Orange County early voting is Oct. 16 – Nov. 1 with closest locations to campus at Chapel of the Cross next to Morehead Planetarium, or at Carrboro Town Hall on West Main Street. Early voting sites are open all weekdays during that period, plus are open Saturday, Oct. 19 and Sunday, Oct. 27. (Two other Orange County early voting locations are further from campus).

New voters can register either through Oct. 11 by filling out a registration form and mailing it snail mail or turning it in during a registration drive on campus. You can also register on the spot while voting during early voting. There is often voter registration in the Pit, or you can download and print a registration form. Getting your voter registration in order now will also make it simpler to vote in the March 3 primary, which includes president, U.S. Senate, governor and many other state and local offices.

If you are residents of Raleigh or Cary and vote there, early voting for mayor and council for the Oct. 8 election runs through this Friday, Oct. 4 at seven Wake County locations, or you can vote in your Wake County precinct Oct. 8. Raleigh may also have a mayoral runoff Nov. 5.

Wherever you vote, local government impacts many issues of import to students, such as public transit, policing, zoning, traffic control, affordable housing and parks and recreation.

If you live in Orange County and want to make your voice heard on something you care about locally, email

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