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Be informed and vote on issues that matter

When early voting ended Saturday in North Carolina, more than 2.1 million voters had cast their ballots. That’s almost 28 percent of the state’s more than 7.4 million registered voters. For some perspective, it’s helpful to know that by the end of the 2018 midterm election, a total of 52 percent of voters had cast a ballot. Of those, 21.8 percent of eligible voters voted early.

Given the stakes, it’s not surprising that interest in this midterm election runs high. Worries about voter intimidation don’t seem to be deterring North Carolina voters from exercising their right to vote, even though the state was one of ten viewed by the Brennan Center for as being at high risk for intimidation to disrupt the process. The center released a guideproviding an overview of federal and state laws, including those in North Carolina, that protect against intimidation.

Despite concerns raised by the false claims of Republican candidates influenced by former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie’’ that the 2020 election was stolen from him, the Brennan Center’s director of voting rights, Sean Morales-Doyle, told “The Pulse,” an N.C. Policy Watch blog, that voters should go to the polls with confidence.

“Yes, there’s reason to be more concerned in some ways this year than in previous years,” he said. “But I want to temper that concern and say that most voters are not going to face intimidation . if they do run into some trouble, they’ve got election protection and election officials and many, many advocates who are watching developments closely, who they can rely upon to ensure that there won’t be any major disruption to our elections.”

Based on early voting turnout, the biggest challenge voters are likely to face Tuesday will be lines. Polling places will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and any voter in line at 7:30 p.m. at their assigned polling place will be allowed to vote.

Every election is important because we the people are choosing those leaders who will make the laws that govern our lives. In every election cycle there are candidates who distort the truth and try to make the election about emotionally charged issues that incite unfounded fears and bring out our basest feelings.

Candidates do that because fear works. A meta-analysis conducted by Dolores Albarracin, PhD, professor of psychology, business, and medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her colleagues found that messages with fear are nearly twice as effective as messages without fear. The study was published in Psychological Bulletin in November 2015.

As a result, we often end up casting ballots based on non-issues – concerns that have little effect on the matters that determine the quality of our lives.

To find out where candidates stand on the issues that do shape our lives – laws that affect the economy, education, the environment, our rights and freedoms – requires research and comparison that many voters don’t have much time to do.

That makes us vulnerable to scare tactics. It also makes it harder to vote with a focus on the principles that we believe in.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “We must be willing, individually and as a Nation, to accept whatever sacrifices may be required of us. A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

In North Carolina this election cycle, voters will choose a new U.S. Senator, 14 U.S. representatives, state legislators, numerous judges and local officials. All of these elected leaders will have the power to affect our lives. It’s critical that all of us do our research before we go to the polls in order to choose candidates that truly care about serving their constituents. Most candidates have websites where their positions on issues can be researched. The North Carolina League of Women Voters has a highly informative nonpartisan voters’ guide.

Don’t waste your vote on non-issues. Become informed before you go to the polls and vote based on your interests and the principles that guide you.

Joy Franklin is a journalist and writer who served as editorial page editor of the Asheville Citizen-Times for 10 years. Prior to that she served as executive editor of the Times-News in Hendersonville, N.C. Franklin writes for Carolina Commentary.

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