Whose Rules: What’s at Stake in North Carolina

By Joelle Gamble, Emma Frantz |

Voting opens in all U.S. states tomorrow morning, and the presidency, Congress, our courts, and our state houses are all on the line. But in North Carolina, where voters have been casting ballots since October 20, the election has already begun. Changing demographics, recently revoked Voter ID laws, and a robust organizing community have made North Carolina a critical state in determining the outcome of the election and progressive policy fights at the state and local level. This is not a role the state is accustomed to, and there is palpable enthusiasm among voters here, who are aware that their vote could change the course of history.

Joelle has been canvassing in Durham County, where volunteers covered the entire county in just one day this past Saturday. Now, volunteers are moving to new counties, reaching more voters than organizers expected. Emma, based at UNC-Charlotte, has been working on getting voters in Mecklenburg County registered to vote. She and other students worked to bring attention to local and state candidates by canvassing fellow students before early voting started.

As young progressives, we hope this enthusiasm will translate into the polls and beyond this week, as many of our top issues are at stake. In North Carolina, we have the potential to:

Support an accessible and successful education system

Currently, North Carolina ranks below the national average on several education issues, including teacher and staff salaries, the growth rate of these salaries over time, and the share of revenue going into the public school system. We must reinvest in quality public education.

Maintain a prosperous economy

North Carolina is one of the fastest growing economies in the country. The state has become home to many industry-leading companies and growing business sectors in areas such as biotechnology, energy, finance, and information technology. We must implement policies that attract new business rather than discriminatory laws that push them away. The draconian HB2, for instance, was incredible harmful for the transgender community and setback our growing business sector.

Serve the interests of our diverse communities

Recent protests in the city of Charlotte, among other areas, have shined light on issues of human rights and equality. Police brutality and discrimination against the transgender community are just two of the potent issues facing the state. We must prioritize making communities safe and fair for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, or income level.

Ensure equal access to health care for all

Access to quality, affordable health care is a necessity for everyone, especially underserved populations such as low-income individuals and families, racial and ethnic minorities, and rural communities. All children and adults deserve to live healthier, more productive lives.

Expand clean energy and work to protect our environment

A strong economy and a healthy environment go together. Practicing alternative energy production will be a boon to our state.

Provide equal access for all to engage in our democracy

Gerrymandering of districts and passing restrictive voting laws limit access to democracy for marginalized populations. Decreasing these barriers and prioritizing equal access will allow our residents to be more responsive and contribute to the health of our democracy.

North Carolina has the potential to become a state with progressive leadership that invests in the people of the state rather than continuing its string of discriminatory and backward-facing policies. Organizers across the state have been working diligently for months and years to move those most affected by these policies into action. We believe that if enough voters go to the polls before tomorrow evening, we may see a turning point in North Carolina politics on Wednesday.

Joelle Gamble is a Senior Advisor to the President & CEO of the Roosevelt Institute.

Emma Frantz is a senior and Roosevelt chapter head at UNC Charlotte.