UNC students headed to the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History on Tuesday to cast votes in Orange County's municipal elections.
The Stone Center was the only polling location open on the University’s campus.
Students have a long history of engagement with local elections, according to Orange County Board of Elections Chairperson Jamie Cox.
“I am always encouraged to see students cast their ballot and participate at a local level,” Cox said.
Cox added that local government plays a large role in every citizen's lives, including students' — a sentiment that was echoed around UNC's campus on Election Day.
“Local elections are where you see the most change in the democratic process," UNC senior Aurora Charlow said. “They are also elections where your single individual vote matters proportionally more than in any of the national elections you are ever going to vote in.”
Mckenzie Harris, a public policy major at UNC, said she voted this election season to support social justice issues that mattered to her.
“I’m big on the environment, especially with the recent backlash with Chapel Hill’s support of the coal plant," Harris said.
UNC graduate student Jordan Waugh said she was looking to see what different candidates were aiming to do to connect to their community.
“I think it’s just interesting, all the candidates' positions on community engagement, and especially how they address public transportation," Waugh said.
Having recently moved to Chapel Hill, Waugh said she was drawn to participate in the elections to fulfill her civic duty and contribute to the discourse in her community.
UNC graduate student Hunter Quintal echoed that sentiment, saying he believes local politics profoundly impacts citizens.
“I feel like I actually get to interact with candidates around town and actually get to voice my opinions to a person," Quintal said. "So, it is the easiest way for me to be able to influence the policies that I am interested in.”
Although he added that he is not interested in all of the seats on the ballot during this election cycle, he said he wants to do his duty to become more engaged in the Town of Chapel Hill.
“I was more interested in learning about each candidate’s position on environmental policy and justice and equity,” Quintal said. “So, I looked online to see what their official positions were, and as long as they were able to communicate a well-reasoned argument towards any of those positions, I was more inclined to vote for them.”
Although some students were aware that Nov. 2 was Election Day, others were not.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know this was happening today until I got an email,” UNC student Tashiana McBride said. “I have been seeing campaign posters and stuff, but I haven’t done my research about anybody.”
McBride added that even though she did not vote in Orange County’s municipal election, she still thinks it is important for students to vote wherever they attend school.
Unofficial election results will be released on Nov. 2 and the election will be certified next Tuesday, according to Cox.
“Tell your friends, students, staff, faculty or anybody else that elections matter, including local elections, and encourage them to get out and exercise their right to vote,” Cox said. “It is a fundamental franchise in our democracy.”
Harrison Gummel contributed reporting.
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