Early voting starts today for the May 8 election in Durham. Voters across North Carolina will be heading to the polls over the next few weeks to decide which officials will represent them.
This year, most of the elections in Durham are for local races. For students, faculty and staff, casting a ballot will be easier than usual because early voting is taking place in the Brodhead Center.
“Duke encourages all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote in every election,” wrote Christopher Simmons, associate vice president for government relations in an email.
The Chronicle put together this guide to help you figure out how to participate.
1. Are you registered to vote?
In order to vote in Durham, you must be registered. To check if you are registered, visit this website and type in your information. If you don’t show up in the Board of Elections system, you are likely not registered. You may still register at early voting, however. Off-campus residents will need to provide a document (such as a bill) that includes your name and current address. For on-campus residents, your student ID serves as your proof of residency. Same-day registration is not available on election day, May 8. In the event you are registered but have a new address, you can easily update it at early voting.
2. When and where do I go to vote?
During early voting, anyone registered to vote in Durham County can vote at one of six early voting sites, including the one in the Brodhead Center (Room 068). Early voting is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. during weekdays and Saturdays and from noon to 4:00 p.m. on Sundays. On Saturday May 5, the last day of early voting, polls close at 1:00 p.m. On election day—May 8—polls are open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
If you choose to vote on election day, your polling place will be listed when you check your registration status. For residents of West and Central Campuses, this is the Patterson Recreation Center (2614 Crest Street). For East Campus residents, vote at George Watts Elementary School (700 Watts Street).
Students, faculty and staff who live off campus may be assigned to other precincts and should vote there. If the address on record for you is not where you currently live, look up what precinct you live in here. Go there and the staff will help update your registration information.
3. How do I get to the polls?
Traveling to the Patterson Recreation Center from campus can be difficult. Your best bet will be to drive or use Uber or Lyft. However, it would be much easier to vote on campus during one of the 17 days of early voting. George Watts Elementary School is a short walk off East Campus.
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4. What happens when I get to the polling place?
The elections staff will ask for your name and address so that they can look up your registration. They will then have you sign a form confirming that information before giving you a ballot. You will be directed to a booth where you can mark your ballot in private. In Durham, the ballot looks like a large multiple-choice test where you fill in bubbles. After you finish, you will insert the ballot into a machine to be tabulated.
5. Who is on my ballot?
This question has a slightly complicated answer because this election has partisan and nonpartisan components. Depending on what party you are registered with, your ballot will look different. Unaffiliated voters can choose to vote with a specific party’s ballot or use a nonpartisan ballot. Because Durham has traditionally supported more Democratic candidates, there are more races on the Democratic ballot. In a town as dominated by Democrats as Durham, the winner of the Democratic primary is almost guaranteed to win in November. There are no Republican primaries in districts that cover Duke’s campus.
The only nonpartisan races are for school board. Every voter will have a school board race on their ballot. Four district-based seats are up for election and the winners of this election become the new school board members. Only one candidate for school board is running in the district that covers Duke’s campus.
For campus residents using the Democratic ballot, there are two other races: one for District Attorney and one for Sheriff. To view who is on your ballot, look up your registration and click “Sample Ballots.” A sample Democratic ballot for voters living on Duke’s campus has been provided below. Voters who live elsewhere may have a few more races to vote on.
6. What do these offices do in Durham?
The seven-member Board of Education determines the policy of the approximately 33,000-student Durham Public School system. Although it does not have the power to tax, the body proposes budgets, provides oversight, makes hires and determines capital construction priorities.
The Sheriff oversees one of the law enforcement agencies in Durham County. Their responsibilities include patrolling the county, investigating crimes and managing the County Jail. The District Attorney represents the state in criminal prosecutions arising in Durham. Overseeing a staff of lawyers, they determine what cases to try in court and how criminal cases should be handled. Both offices have been the topic of much debate in the community as they play large roles in administering the criminal justice system.
7. Who should I vote for?
That’s up to you. As you saw earlier, there aren’t many candidates to research in this election, so it should not take too long to decide. Be sure to do your research before you go vote though—if you leave and come back later, you may have to vote using a provisional ballot.
Candidates for Sheriff:
Candidates for District Attorney:
8. Should I vote in Durham?
Again, that’s your decision. If it’s any help, last year we asked Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, Trinity ’73, how he sees the decision:
“If you think to yourself that you’re not really a Durham resident and you don’t really care about Durham, then you shouldn’t vote,” Schewel said. “But if you’re committed to Durham and you think of yourself during your time here as a Durham resident in your four years here, then voting should be important.”
9. Other questions?
Check out the Durham Board of Elections website.
Adam Beyer is a senior public policy major and is The Chronicle's Digital Strategy Team director.