Free and fair elections in Beaufort County

Published 7:37 pm Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Are you concerned about the upcoming election? If so, you’re not alone, and concerns about the process stretch across political ideologies.

Republicans have expressed concerns that the absentee ballot process may be misused to influence this year’s results. Democrats have shared worries about voter disenfranchisement and a possible breakdown of the peaceful transition of power. Both parties are wary of foreign interference in the electoral process and the rampant spread of false and misleading information on social media.

Then add in the uncertain impacts of COVID-19, a dramatic uptick in absentee ballot requests, sweeping national changes at the U.S. Postal Service and worries about votes not being counted, and there is indeed reason to be concerned.

However, there are also mitigating factors for local voters to consider, all of which should help ease those concerns.

For one, a new website at the state level called Ballot Trax allows North Carolina voters to track their absentee ballot, from the day they put it in the mailbox to the time it is counted at the local board of elections. This should help with worries that absentee ballots are not received or counted.

Second, with all the false and misleading information floating around in cyberspace, it’s sometimes difficult to discern truth from fiction. The Washington Daily News seeks to bring timely, relevant and factual information to our readers on local politics, and will do so in two ways this year.

Be sure to pick up our Election Guide on Oct. 17, which will contain information about where, when and how to vote, as well as profiles on each candidate running for local office and the seats in the North Carolina General Assembly. Then check out our 2020 candidate forum, hosted in partnership with the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce. The forum will be recorded and available on the Daily News’ website prior to the election, and both will offer an opportunity for local voters to make better-informed decisions at the ballot box.

Finally, there’s the old saying that “all politics are local.” So too are all elections. Ultimately, all of the ballots cast in Beaufort County will be handled and reviewed at the Beaufort County Board of Elections. Between the board and the staff there, the people who handle these ballots are consummate professionals, who are 100% dedicated to free and fair elections in Beaufort County.

If you need an example of that commitment, look no further than last year’s municipal elections for the City of Washington. When two candidates tied for fifth place in that election last year, the local Board of Elections recounted every ballot, not just once, but twice — first by machine, then by hand. Though the board ultimately had to decide the winner by random chance, their dedication to ensure that every eligible vote was counted is commendable and should be a source of confidence for local voters.

In short, there’s not a lot that any of us can do as individuals about the uncertainties surrounding this year’s national elections. Here’s what you can do — register to vote, cast your ballot and trust that the people at our local board of elections will do everything in their power to make sure that it is counted. If everyone follows those simple steps, there is zero doubt that we will have a free and fair election.