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Polls indicate voting rights taken seriously in mid-terms

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Voters fill out their ballots on the first day of early voting at the Pasquotank County Board of Elections, Wednesday.

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

The first day of early voting would seem to telegraph the message that this year's mid-term election has generated a lot of interest in the direction of our government at every level and in the individuals who voters are looking to for leadership.

Many important issues, from taxation to education to immigration and a slew of local matters, are behind the emerging voter participation in this year's election. In addition, there is the reigning hyper-partisanship, particularly on the state and national level, that is pushing many voters to the polls.

We wish it were not so, but more and more voters are driven by the hot-button issues — often packaged and bull-horned by special-interest, dark-money advocacy groups — that separate Americans. We’d prefer votes be cast based on thoughtful, educated considerations aimed at identifying and following good leadership toward better outcomes for everyone.

In the current environment, however, the well-funded dividers rather than the practical compromisers seem to rule. They are front and center on just about every major national issue in the last two years — from taxes to education and immigration to foreign policy and health care.

The voting public has been peppered — loudly and frequently — by hard left or right viewpoints during the current political biennium. It's a disparaging reality of our times, in which extreme views on both sides of the political divide have undermined what is really needed — middle ground. But with the overwhelming, heavily funded, special interest focus, few candidates can muster the support or the money to champion a successful middle ground position. Sensing their own political vulnerabilities to do so makes it more difficult to protect the middle by challenging the extremes. Of course, there are principled  and courageous leaders and officeholders who are doing that. They are mostly incumbents with long-standing records of support, that have been able to weather the prevailing tide against the middle. They and others are the best hope for moving Americans closer together and forward.

In the meantime, many voters are feeling fearful or vulnerable to political, social or economic threats that have been pushed at them by groups with money and influence. These voters are more likely to vote out of an extremist, protective viewpoint. Still, they are taking action by voting. Exercise of that crucial right in our republic illustrates that the basic principle of our democratic process is valued even when we disagree emphatically. 

Whatever their motivations, area voters turned out in sweeping numbers on Wednesday, the first day of early voting in North Carolina, to cast ballots for local, state and congressional candidates.

Election officials across the five Albemarle counties, reported more than 1,500 ballots cast Wednesday. And among those, Currituck and Camden reported higher first day voting than during the May primary.

Among individual counties, the first day totals were about 600 in Pasquotank County; 271 in Perquimans County; 243 in Chowan County; 235 in Currituck County; and 189 in Camden County. By Friday, the early trend for high voting numbers was continuing, and the area may be headed for larger, if not record, turnout for a mid-term election.

Whatever is driving voters to the polls, the realization that elections matter, that they have consequences, and that voters realize they are affected by those consequences, serves our communities, our state and our nation.

The import of fair, free, legal and high participation elections has dawned in a major way. So, for whatever reasons that area citizens are participating in the elections, voting is a good thing. So keep it up.

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