Our Opinion: Exercise your right to vote in local and state elections today

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More North Carolinians are voting in this year’s election than in the 2014 midterm. Unless you’re among the thousands of folks who took part in one-stop early voting, today’s the day to make your voice heard.

State figures show 23.3 percent of registered Wilson County voters cast their ballots early. That’s up from 20.4 percent four years ago, but local, state and federal races are still very much up in the air. After all, more than three quarters of eligible Wilson voters haven’t had their say.

In raw numbers, 15,517 Wilson County residents voted early. There are 56,675 registered voters in the county. Just because a lot of ballots were cast, that doesn’t mean anything is set in stone.

The showdown for Wilson County’s lone seat in the N.C. House appears to be the most hotly contested local race. Democratic state Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield is seeking a ninth term and faces unaffiliated challenger Ken Fontenot, a conservative who’s backed by the county and state Republican Party. The redrawn House District 24 encompasses the entire county.

Our state Senate seat is also up for grabs, with Democratic Sen. Milton F. “Toby” Fitch of Wilson facing Republican challenger Richard Scott and Libertarian Jesse Shearin. The new Senate District 4 includes all of Wilson, Edgecombe and Halifax counties.

Wilson County’s incumbent sheriff, Democrat Calvin Woodard, is seeking a third term and is opposed by Republican challenger Kevin Raper.

Both U.S. House seats whose districts include portions of Wilson County are on the ballot. In the 1st Congressional District, Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield faces Republican Roger Allison. In the 2nd District, Republican incumbent George Holding is locked in a close race with Democrat Linda Coleman. Jeff Matemu, a Libertarian, is also in the running.

On the Wilson County Board of Education, three candidates — Rhyan Breen, Stephanie Cyrus and Wayne Willingham — are vying for the District 7 seat being vacated by Robin Flinn. Incumbents Debora Powell in District 1, Christine Fitch in District 3 and Beverly Boyette in District 5 are running unopposed.

All seven incumbent county commissioners are on the ballot and are unopposed in their respective re-election bids, as are two county soil and water conservation district supervisors.

In statewide contests, N.C. Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson, a Republican, faces another registered Republican, Chris Anglin, in addition to Democrat Anita Earls. Seat 2 on the N.C. Court of Appeals is a three-way race between Republicans Jefferson Griffin and Sandra Alice Ray and Democrat Toby Harrison. Though each faces an intra-party challenge, Jackson and Griffin are the only candidates for those seats to receive the North Carolina Republican Party’s endorsement.

Court of Appeals Seat 1 pits Republican Andrew Heath against Democrat John Arrowood. Seat 3 on the appellate court features a three-party contest, with Libertarian Michael Monaco Sr. challenging Republican Chuck Kitchen and Democrat Allegra Collins.

Voters will also give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to six proposed amendments to the N.C. Constitution. Those amendments would establish a right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife; expand crime victims’ notification rights; cap the state income tax at a maximum of 7 percent; require photo identification in order to vote; and give state lawmakers more power to control judicial appointments and state elections board appointments.

The Wilson Times does not endorse candidates for public office. However, we do encourage you to vote today regardless of whom you support. If you are registered to vote and have not yet cast your ballot, now is the time. Exercise your right to participate in our American democracy.

Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. today. To find your polling place, you can look up your voter registration on the N.C. State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement website at https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/. If you have questions or need assistance to vote, call the Wilson County Board of Elections office at 252-399-2836.

Don’t let this chance to stand up and be counted slip away.