Election Day is fast approaching. Voters across North Carolina will head to the polls on Tuesday, November 8, but the voting season officially kicked off earlier this month. County boards of elections started mailing out ballots as early as September 9, and over 5,000 voters have already cast their absentee ballot by mail.

Voting by mail is one of the secure options to make your voice heard in this critical election.

Any registered voter can request a mail-in ballot via the North Carolina Board of Elections portal at votebymail.ncsbe.gov. While the deadline to do so is Tuesday, November 1, it is highly recommended to request your absentee ballot now to avoid any potential delays in sending or receiving mail.

Want to vote in person?

In-person early voting begins on Thursday, October 20 and ends on Saturday, November 5. Locations and times will vary by county.

If you miss the October 14 registration deadline you can register and vote on the same day during early voting. Eligible voters may also update their address during this period, aptly called “One Stop Early Voting.” Unlike on Election Day, you may vote at any open polling location in your county during One Stop Early Voting.

Early voting sites and schedules are posted to the One-Stop Early Voting Site Search at vt.ncsbe.gov/ossite/.

Election Day

Election Day is on Tuesday, November 8. Set by the Federal Government, the general election date is always the Tuesday following the first Monday in the month of November.

Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and voters must vote in person at their assigned precinct. The most important take-away is that you need to make a plan to vote now. Regardless of where you live in the U.S., you can use vote.org to find everything you need to know to plan for election day, including checking to make sure you are registered, locating your polling place and tracking your ballot. You can even sign up for election reminders.

Safe and secure elections

In a democracy, it is critical that our elections are safe, free and fair. The North Carolina Board of Elections, along with county Board of Elections across the state, have employees dedicated to ensuring every legal vote is counted fairly and accurately.

In North Carolina, every ballot has a paper trail, allowing for a secure recount if needed. The Board of Elections also canvasses following each election, to follow-up with voters and ensure the accuracy of future elections.

These are just a few of the guardrails the state has in place to protect the vote. By state law, voting machines are not connected to the internet, limiting the ability of cyberattacks to happen on digital systems. Every polling place must have a bipartisan staff of trained polling workers, all of whom have taken the same oath to protect and safeguard our elections.

Our elections are safe and secure, even as the very poll workers dedicated to keeping our elections safe have come under attack. The U.S. Department of Justice has reviewed over 1,000 hostile threats reported towards election workers over the past year alone, prompting increased enforcement and investigations. Some experts, including the Brennan Center for Justice, believe the actual number of threats to be higher as many go unreported to federal agencies. Election workers, poll observers and volunteers are crucial for a successful election, and the potential for intimidation and violence against them is real.

The LGBTQ vote

In North Carolina, critical races are on the ballot this year, and the future of LGBTQ rights is at stake. Whether you are voting for a U.S. Senator or a member of your local Board of Education, it is important to remember the impact that elected officials can have on the lives of all queer people. Our elections chart the course for our lived experiences and can determine the future health of our democracy.

Our government relies on the participation of the people – of you and me. Over the next few weeks leading into the midterms, this column will focus on the information you need to participate in our elections. And over the course of two years, we will further examine what is at stake and how our rights are at risk in this election and as we head to 2024.

We must stand up now, understanding the urgency this moment demands of us. The anti-LGBTQ efforts seen elsewhere across the country are very present in North Carolina.

Earlier this year, House Bill 755 was proposed in the NC General Assembly as a copy of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” Likewise, Moms for Liberty groups are targeting School Boards whether they’re in Wake or Union counties, attempting to ban LGBTQ books and undermine policies that protect queer students and staff.

Every vote cast determines who writes the bills and policies that govern our lives. The results of this election will be tangible and lasting.

Find your North Carolina sample ballot, precinct location and check your voter registration now at vt.ncsbe.gov/reglkup.

Editor’s Note: Cameron Pruette currently serves as the President of the LGBTQ Democrats of Mecklenburg County and is Director of Faith Organizing at The Freedom Center for Social Justice.

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