As the summer is turning into fall, we’re holding our communities through difficult and challenging times. With the rapid spread of the Delta variant, threats to reproductive rights at the Supreme Court and climate change, this is a frightening time to be living. But we know that we have to channel this fear into action, standing up for our beliefs. And one of the most powerful ways to effect change is in our local communities, through municipal elections.

Although municipal elections were postponed in several cities due to pandemic-related delays to census data, elections are still happening — and that means a lot. The cities of Durham, Winston-Salem and Wilmington are all having elections this fall, among many others. These elections offer an opportunity for members of the public to speak out for what they believe in and vote accordingly.

Municipal elections are frequently the elections with the most powerful direct impact on voters’ lives. Cities determine funding allocations for important issues like police funding, money for infrastructure projects or zoning. And these relatively small issues can have a big impact when it comes to issues of social justice, with the potential to radically change the course of the state and country.

For example, in the past year, 12 municipalities have passed nondiscrimination ordinances, filling in gaps in federal and state protections and bringing the amount North Carolinians protected from discrimination to over 20 percent.

This is amazing progress — but we know that we can do better — and bring comprehensive NDOs to the whole state. A strong majority of North Carolinians support LGBTQ nondiscrimination, which means that many cities have a more supportive public than their city council counterparts. This means that voters who prioritize LGBTQ equality will matter a lot — we need you to hold your elected officials accountable.

Moreover, because local elections often have low turnout, a person’s individual vote will often matter more — so your voice will be especially strong. We need all hands on deck to stand up for racial and social justice on the local level.

Here are some important tips to keep in mind for the upcoming election:

  • Figure out when your city’s elections will happen. A few North Carolina cities have elections in October, not November, and some have been postponed. You can look this up at bit.ly/3lfkIf6.
  • If you need to register to vote or update your voter registration information, you need to register 25 days before the election, which is September 10th for October elections and October 8th for November elections. You can register at bit.ly/3A8RLYa.
  • If you miss that deadline, don’t fear! You can also register in person at an early voting site after the deadline — just make sure you vote early.
  • If you’re planning on voting absentee, absentee ballots will be sent out starting on October 3rd (September 5th for October elections). You can request an absentee ballot at bit.ly/391hZ35.
  • Early voting is from October 14th to October 30th for November elections and from September 16th to October 2nd for October elections.
  • For October elections, Election Day is Tuesday, October 5th. For November, it’s Tuesday, November 2nd.
  • We encourage folks to vote early or absentee, since it’s more convenient and avoids last minute problems stopping you from voting, like a schedule change, a flat tire or a medical emergency.

So this year, commit to educating yourself about the candidates in your community: who they are, what they believe and what their record is in standing up for racial justice and the LGBTQ community.

And if you need any help in doing so, Equality NC will be here. We’re endorsing candidates in municipal elections for this year, and we’ll be certain to put out our list of endorsed candidates on social media and in our communications. We’re always deeply careful and considerate in our endorsements, carefully evaluating all of the candidates who apply and analyzing their record. You can count on our endorsements as a helpful aid to evaluate the candidates running in your community.

Let’s all work together for a better future.

Kendra R. Johnson is the Executive Director of Equality NC.

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