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No candidate should go unopposed, no vote uncast

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Paula Dance, filing to run for Pitt County sheriff on Monday, is among four candidates seeking the seat so far.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Amid the uncertainty and tumult over the shape of North Carolina congressional and legislative districts, whether some elections might be canceled and even who will administer elections, it is rather remarkable that officials and politicians can figure out which offices are even going to be on the 2018 ballot.

But, maybe that’s just par for the course in this state as filing for most offices continues through Feb. 28.

Even considering all that, we shouldn’t let it further feed any cynicism or diminish the importance of the upcoming elections. Issues voters must consider are as important as any state they have faced: providing a quality education for all children; assuring adequate health care for those in need; demanding accountability in the spending of taxpayer dollars — particularly the current private school voucher system; expecting reasonable taxation of businesses; assuring the basic fairness of our elections and equitable representation through non-partisan redistricting.

The Republican power structure in the General Assembly has done nearly everything possible — though we’re sure there are even more schemes deep in their bag of tricks — to dissuade citizens from seeking public office or participating in elections.

Despite efforts to sideline voters, North Carolina elections aren’t spectator sports. The coming campaigns are no time to relinquish participation — in fact it is more urgent than ever to be involved and vote.

In the 2010 fall election for the 160 seats in the General Assembly, 47 seats were uncontested — 30 percent.

After state Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and other leaders imposed their gerrymandered, unconstitutional legislative redistricting, unopposed seats reached their apex in 2014 — with half the seats in the legislature going unopposed in the general election. It was slightly less in the fall of 2016 — 44 percent of the seats were uncontested.

The reason, of course, is that voter registration and turnout in these gerrymandered districts is so lopsided in favor of one political party over another, minority party candidates see little realistic opportunity for victory. Why waste critical campaign resources on a Sisyphean pursuit? Voters don’t see any reason to vote, since they have no choice.

No candidate should get a free ride into office. The political party organizations — statewide and local — should be committed to recruiting candidates for every office on the ballot. No candidate for Congress, the legislature or county commission should go unopposed.

There is one very important reason. Every candidate, particularly incumbents, should be forced to account for their actions and views. There is no better way than through election campaigns with persistent candidates who make their views known, contrast them with their opponents’ and force the opposing candidates to explain for themselves.

While some may want to keep interest in elections low to keep voters away from the polls, contested campaigns generate participation and increase turnout. That is a good thing.

It is one of the great strengths of American democracy and a virtue of regular and frequent elections.

When nearly half the state legislature arrives in office without any accountability to the voters, it inevitably leads to excesses and abuses of power – the kinds that have been clogging our courts for the last seven years.

In the United States, the most power is in the hands of each citizen through their vote. Don’t be relinquished to the sidelines. Don’t let others take your say away from you.

If you aren’t registered to vote, do it now. You can find all you need to know here.

Capitol Broadcasting Company of Raleigh

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Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

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