Well, here we are at T-minus however many days which are left until Nov. 3, 2020, when as a nation we cast our votes on ballots from “sea to shining sea.” This year, needless to say, will be one that will go down in history books as a major tale of good versus evil. No matter what, voting not only for president, but up and down the ballot, will be important steps to take to assure that the country is able to retain a democracy.

The LGBTQ community has seen our collective rights challenged, some severely stripped away, while we have also seen some “good guy” moments such as the recent employment decision brought down by the Supreme Court of the United States. But, those have been fleeting in the ever-present push back by Conservative politicians and a “fearful” leader whose only aim is to set the U.S. back in its pursuit of “life, liberty and justice for ALL.”

Now, we have a chance to defend American Democracy by simply doing one highly important thing this fall — vote! This is not the time to say that you are disinterested, bored, tired of the struggle, etc. That will only land us all back right where we are now, and that is feeling the oppression of discrimination, being overwhelmed by illness and death that could have been on some level abated as far as the numbers that are seen daily, along with the treacherous violation of civil rights.

Voting Initiatives

Both regionally and nationally, a number of “get out the vote” drives and initiatives are underway. Each one has captured on innovative ways to reach their audiences in the wake of social distancing guidelines mandated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Equality North Carolina Action Fund PAC (ENCAFPAC) has developed their OUT* to Vote campaign (*even if we have to stay inside). They are spending time in introducing statewide candidates to voters via an interview process that is made available online through equalitync.org/vote, social media channels and through the organization’s e-blast newsletter. ENCAFPAC has endorsed 145 candidates (see the endorsement story online).

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also has brought its endorsement process to the Carolinas with its Champions for Equality for North Carolina General Assembly races. They gave nods to 26 candidates who have “led the fight in their own communities and on the state level to advance equality and defend against attempts to roll back LGBTQ rights.”

“North Carolina continues to be a key state for defending and advancing LGBTQ protections and we need local leaders to continue the fight,” said Melodia Gutiérrez, HRC’s associate regional campaigns director. “There is a lot more work to do to ensure that 319,000 LGBTQ North Carolinians have the protections from discrimination all humans deserve. … Between now and November, we are laser focused on mobilizing the more than 1.5 million Equality Voters throughout the state to ensure these [26] and other pro-equality candidates up and down the ballot are elected.”

One more project for ENCAFPAC is their call for young, healthy volunteers to become official poll workers for their local board of elections. “Currently, we are experiencing poll worker shortages in almost every county across the state. Historically, poll workers tend to be older, retired individuals who are currently at greater risk during the pandemic and, as a result, can’t serve in their usual roles.” Contact local boards of election for information on how to participate.

HRC has hired on additional staff to work in priority and second-tier states, including North Carolina. This is being handled through intensive virtual interactions among volunteers with committee members through its TEAM tool, as well as using virtual phone banks and text banks to engage voters. HRC is attempting to “pull the emergency brake on the hateful anti-LGBTQ agenda of the Trump-Pence administration and elect a Congress that would hold them accountable.”

PFLAG has also joined in with the voter attraction initiative process and have created PFLAG VOTES (with the “o” in votes displayed as a heart with 2020 inside). They have developed a voter registration linking process that gives potential voters the necessary channels to complete the action. PFLAG shared, “Education is one of the three crucial pillars of PFLAG’s work, and that includes education about the upcoming election in NC.” Their aim is to provide “trusted tools and resources you need to go to the polls — and get others to join you — confidently, safely, and with equality and justice top of mind.” PFLAG also added, “This is the most critical election of our lifetime.”

The Victory Fund has stated that they have shattered their previous endorsement records and are supporting over 300 LGBTQ candidates nationally for the 2020 election season. One of those being endorsed is Kristin Graziano who, if elected, will make history as the first openly LGBTQ sheriff in South Carolina. The Fund said that this year’s elections have gotten “dirty” with counter candidates decrying homophobic statements.

Reclaim Our Vote and the NC NAACP has been conducting their own election campaign. They have been sending out postcards encouraging People of Color recipients to engage in early voting and to register or re-register then if they have not already done so. Reclaim Our Vote says, “Be Vote Ready!”

Registering to Vote

Time is closing in on being able to register to vote in this ever-crucial election season. There are many organizations that have provided strategies to accomplish this. However, the more direct way is through state election board sites. Applicants are required to have a valid North Carolina identification or driver’s license for online registration.

In North Carolina, the deadline to register is Oct. 9, 25 days before the election. In order to apply, applicants are required to have their forms postmarked on or before the deadline. Prospective voters can apply at their county board of elections office, through voter registration drives and through the state’s website. Additionally, eligible voters may also register to vote and cast their vote on the same day during the One-Stop early voting period.

To learn more about voting, registration and other issues, as well as checking your registration details, visit ncsbe.gov.

Additionally, volunteer opportunities are being made available through the “You Can Vote” initiative. Those who are part of this program can help get the word out to eligible voters during the challenges presented during the COVID-19 pandemic and can volunteer from home in many cases, organizers shared. This includes assistance for voter registration, helping voters to learn how to vote, learning what is on the ballot, as well as being part of the Get Out the Vote campaign. Training will be provided to those who serve. To learn more, visit youcanvote.org/volunteer.

Additionally, Vote Protectors will be onsite at voting locations across North Carolina serving as the “eyes and ears on the ground” helping voters who encounter problems at the polls. Sign up with Democracy NC at democracync.org/take-action/election-protection to be part of this initiative.

For information on South Carolina voter registration, visit scvotes.gov.

Absentee Ballots

ENCAFPAC shared, “We’ve already seen this administration lay the groundwork for voter suppression through the USPS [United States Postal Service]. Now, we must ensure that the voting process at the polls is as smooth and cohesive as possible.” The organization is providing education for workers on the difficulties faced by LGBTQ individuals at the polls, especially those who are transgender and gender non-conforming. Visit bit.ly/3lwBANs to fill out an election worker interest form that will be forwarded on to election officials for consideration.

Applications for registered North Carolina voters is currently underway. Information is available through county boards of election or the state’s board of election website. Ballot request forms must be submitted to county offices before Oct. 27. And, absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received by mail by 5 p.m. on the third day following the election.

Democracy NC and You Can Vote suggest that absentee ballots be sent in early due to postal service concerns. For those who are worried about whether their ballots may arrive at their county board of elections on time are encouraged to bring their absentee ballots to the respective locations in person. Voters may still need to wait in line and enter the facility so that ballots can be officially logged in. Absentee ballots began being mailed to recipients beginning on Sept. 4. Once ballots are mailed or dropped off, check with the state board of election website to check on the status of ballots.

For South Carolina voters, sample and absentee ballot information are available online for use by voters.

Early Voting

In-person, One-Stop, early voting begins on Oct. 15 and continues through Oct. 31 in North Carolina. During this time, voters are able to cast a ballot in their respective county at a number of early voting locations and fix any problems with their registration. Additionally, this is a time when voters can register and cast their votes on the same day. This is different than Election Day, when voters are required to cast their ballots at their assigned precinct. Note: There is no same-day registration on Election Day. No matter what, safety procedures will be employed for election officials and voters. For instance, in Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, workers will be equipped with face coverings, there will be frequent cleanings and masks will be provided for all voters who would like them but are not mandatory. Check with local county offices for more details. One suggestion to help things run more smoothly is to download a sample ballot and plan voting selections in advance. Visit vt.ncsbe.gov/reglkup to learn more.

Check South Carolina’s Board of Election’s website for early voting locations.

Election Day

Voters across the country will head to the polls on Nov. 3 in order to cast their ballots in person. Due to COVID-19, stringent guidelines are will be observed with regard to social distancing, materials handling, etc. In Mecklenburg County, voters will be given a stylus to use to sign forms and for the purpose of voting. Precinct workers will wear masks and gloves. Hand sanitizer will be available for use, as well as methods for cleaning equipment, etc. Plexi-panels will also be used to separate voters from personnel. One thing to note is that lines are expected to be long. Patience in working through the process under the stressors of the pandemic will serve for a safe voting experience by everyone. Check with local boards of election for polling place hours of operation.

For comprehensive information on voting in South Carolina, visit scvotes.gov.

Vote America is providing voters with assistance in reaching local boards of election offices and election reminders to help make the experience easier. Visit voteamerica.com to learn more.

To ensure that your voice is heard, take the pledge to vote. If you are able, see to it that your family and friends have a way to be part of the “precious privilege” given every U.S. citizen, and that is the power of voting. Carolina Jews for Justice shared a prayer among the organization’s members that seems very timely right now. They suggest that voters say it when voting. It reads: “Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the Universe, for giving us the opportunity to mend the world!”

So, for today and tomorrow, band together under the rainbow’s arching embrace, mend the world with your vote and show strength in numbers by voting for progressive candidates who will take your concerns seriously and will find a way to help shape a future that we ALL can enjoy, not just a few.

For comprehensive information on voting, including specialized new and features, visit qnotesTurnout Voter Resource Guide supported by Solutions Journalism Network online.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.