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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Voting in municipal elections is important. Do your research.

City & State Editor: Ethan E. Horton

Ethan E. Horton is the 2023-24 city & state editor of The Daily Tar Heel.

The first time I ever voted in a general election was in 2020. It was in the middle of the pandemic, and I remember it was an unseasonably warm Sunday before Election Day, so my breath under the mask I wore while standing in line was a little unpleasant.

And, let's be clear — it was a long line. The line for my polling place was single file for several hundred yards. Most people turned out to vote with their eyes fixed on the presidential election. That's where my eyes were, too.

When I finally got into the polling place, I knew who I was going to vote for at the top of the ballot. Just like most others, I was sure of myself while filling in the first few choices for president and Senate and House. 

I guess I didn't realize that there were more races on the ballot than the ones everyone had been talking about. It was not just Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden — it was Heather Scott vs. Deborah Prickett for the Wake County School Board District 1.

I got more and more lost as I got lower and lower. The last race on the ballot was for Wake County's soil and water conservation district supervisor. I'll be completely honest — I filled in a random name and moved on.

So here's the lesson: don't be 18-year-old me. This year's election is a municipal one and there are only three races — you'll see a mayor's race, a town council race and a school board race on your ballot. Do your research for all of them. Three is not that many.

When you see 13 candidates running for CHCCS' Board of Education, don't let that faze you. Look at endorsements and watch candidate forums, if you have time. Put it on in the background while you work on something else.  

The point is, don't go in blind. While you're in Chapel Hill, you owe it to the community to let your voice be heard. You owe it to democracy. 

Plus, your vote counts for much more in these municipal elections. It's one of the most important votes you can cast.

Barely 16 percent of eligible people voted in the last municipal election in North Carolina in 2021. Just over 18 percent voted in Orange County during the 2019 municipal election, when a UNC student won a seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council by just 24 votes. One vote really does make a difference.

If you're a Chapel Hill resident, you'll see the names Adam Searing and Jess Anderson on your ballot. Do your research on them. Poke around on their campaign websites. See what they stand for. If you have questions — reach out to them. Candidates should be able to answer questions from the public.

You'll see some town council candidates below them. There are 10 of them — which, yes, is a lot. Four of them are running together with Adam Searing, one is Republican and the other five are running on pretty similar pro-development platforms. Look them up. See what they stand for. Ask questions.

Do your research, and then vote. Don't let democracy — or our town — down.


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Ethan E. Horton

Ethan E. Horton is the 2023-24 city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a city & state assistant editor and as the 2023 summer managing editor. Ethan is a senior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and political science, with a minor in history.