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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Why we need to vote local

The presidential election isn't the only race on the ballot in November.

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To receive a mail-in ballot, a voter has to request the form available on the North Carolina State Board of Elections absentee voting website and return the form — either by mail or in person — to their home county’s board of elections by 5 p.m. on Feb. 25. 

Last week, both presidential candidates demonstrated their lack of professionalism during their first debate. The “conversation” between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump seemed to reflect the discourse we see in politics on a daily basis: shouting, ignoring and disregarding other points of view. But they aren’t the only candidates on the ballot this November.

While there has been so much conversation surrounding the presidential election, let’s not overlook the local elections in our state. We have to be educated when going to the polls, and remember the importance of voting for local officials. The results will have major ramifications for North Carolina as a whole — including the UNC System.

President Trump has been in the news lately for reportedly only paying $750 in federal income tax in the year he won the presidency. Although federal taxes are different from state taxes, it does reflect on how thinking critically about our elected officials matters.

As a public university, UNC receives a large portion of its funding from state tax revenue. It would seem important to elect officials who will use that money wisely and respect their constituents' work. 

The UNC System is controlled by the Board of Governors, whose 28 members are directly elected by the North Carolina General Assembly. The fate of Silent Sam, the $2.5 million settlement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the doomed push for in-person classes can largely be attributed to the BOG. The decisions we make on Nov. 3 will determine the body that selects who will continue to make decisions on the BOG.

The BOG is also responsible for determining budget priorities for the UNC System — that is, how the money can be spent. When thinking about the resources available on campus and the facilities we have, electing representatives who will appoint offices that represent our interests should be at the forefront of all students’ minds. 

This is especially pressing as the UNC System moves forward with plans for next semester and next year. We all witnessed the disregard for our lives earlier this year, and the representatives we select in November will bear part of that responsibility moving forward.

Our lives at UNC will be affected by the decisions made in November — but so much more is on the line. Local officials determine a lot of the factors in our daily lives. Given the current state of our country, it's important to note that health policy and racial justice issues are determined in large part by local officials. 

Voting can be a confusing process, especially in the middle of a pandemic. There are multiple hoops to jump through, but resources are available to learn more. For more information, check out this voter guide from One Vote N.C., a collaborative of seven student newsrooms across the state. It includes a wealth of information on when and how to vote, as well as profiles of candidates for N.C. General Assembly in Orange, Mecklenburg, Wake, Guilford, Pitt, Durham and Watauga counties. Or, if podcasts are your thing, be sure to tune in to The Daily Tar Heel’s Before You Vote podcast every Tuesday until the election.

Looking forward to this upcoming election, there are many important decisions to be made. The offices on the ballot are not just random positions that need to be filled, but real people making real decisions. 

Take it seriously, and vote local.

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