Register to Vote in Davidson

Art by Richard Farrell ’22

By Carl Sukow ‘21

I’ll be the first to admit it: in election years, the simple phrase “remember to register!” becomes meaningless. Despite its noble sentiment, sheer repetition of this phrase turns it into nothing more than a soundbite, a drone to which even the politically engaged become numb. Although most of us share the philosophical ideal that higher voter participation leads to a healthier republic, encouraging registration loses meaning when it is presented only philosophically, without any justification of why registration can have real-world, hard results.

To push back against the aloof drone, I’ll give some real-world, results-based backing as to why you (yes, you!) ought to register to vote in Davidson, even if it means withdrawing registration elsewhere. Essentially, Davidson’s location and partisan competitiveness give its elections high de facto levels of political influence, from the contests that will decide our state representatives this fall to the slew of statewide and national elections coming up through 2020. If you find competitive elections downright fun or if you care about government policy and want your voice to carry as much weight as possible at all levels, there is no reason for you not to become a Davidson voter. Before I begin, I should admit that I do have biases; there is an outcome that I’m hoping for this fall. Still, I hope that my argument for Davidson’s importance and the importance of voter registration is neutral to partisan affiliation.

Beginning with more local elections: this 6th of November, Davidson will vote for three representatives. One will go to the United States House of Representatives, one to the North Carolina State House, and one to the North Carolina State Senate. I admit that our national House district is uncompetitive and boring, but believe me when I say that our State House and Senate districts are anything but.

The facts of the matter: our state currently has a Democratic governor, but Republicans in the legislature have a strong enough majority to override a governor’s veto. To break that supermajority, Democrats would need to flip four House seats or six Senate seats. Democrats only need to break one chamber’s supermajority to unlock the governor’s veto. All North Carolina state senators and representatives are up for reelection this fall. Republicans currently hold the State House and Senate districts which include Davidson, but there are Democratic challengers in both.

The starting lineups are set, but what will happen once the game begins? Hypothetically, if both of Davidson’s state districts were to flip, Democrats would be 25% of the way to breaking the House supermajority and 17% of the way to breaking the Senate supermajority. This potential outcome should be a call to register in Davidson regardless of your party identification. Republicans will need high voter registration and turnout to hold these districts and improve their chances of keeping a supermajority.  Democrats will need every vote to flip these districts and better their chances of breaking the supermajority or even pulling even in the legislature.

You may be wondering why our districts might flip. After all, both have been Republican-held since they were drawn in 2011. One word: redistricting. From early 2017 to June 2018, one of the most confusing legal battles I’ve ever seen was fought over illegal racial gerrymandering in North Carolina. It took over a year of litigation, multiple stays from courts (including the SCOTUS!), and the appointment of a “special master” (which sounds like a cross between a Doctor Who villain and a racist plantation owner from 1850), but in the end, our districts were redrawn. The redrawing made the districts intensely competitive. Davidson voters were beyond lucky in the redistricting process, hitting the jackpot with competitive State House and Senate districts. It is not an exaggeration to say that our town’s votes have a greater de facto weight than votes in almost anywhere else in North Carolina.

Beyond the local level, North Carolina statewide politics are just as exciting – they’re just less immediate. Except for a partisan election for the North Carolina Supreme Court this fall (nothing to sneeze at, but less eye-catching than a presidential or gubernatorial election), North Carolina will not have statewide elections until 2020 – but then, it will be a bonanza. That year, we will elect a Governor, a US Senator, and, of course, a President. There is no reason to think that those elections won’t be as competitive our last gubernatorial election (decided by 0.22%) or our last three presidential elections (decided by 0.32%, 2.04%, and 3.66%). Should you register in Davidson this year, your vote will be crucial in elections at all levels for years to come. This is simply because in elections decided by few votes, literally every vote matters.

There are promising signs for the future of both the Republican and Democratic parties in our state at all levels. State-level redistricting has aided Democrats, but Republicans have a structural advantage in the legislature. Our governor is a Democrat, but our state voted for Trump and has two Republican senators in Washington. These dissonant signs are the mark of a swing state, but what will win out? How will the dissonance resolve? That, my friends, is for you to decide. If you can get into Hamilton while it’s in Charlotte before Election Day, listen for one line that concisely summarizes what I’ve been trying to say: “America, you great unfinished symphony.” Not only is our story unfinished, but our future unwritten as well. We are not locked into a deterministic political path – we can freely choose our symphony’s next movement. North Carolina will make a weighty contribution to that movement. Davidson, in turn, is positioned to punch above its weight in deciding the complexion of North Carolina’s contribution. But as easy as it is to talk about “red states” and “blue towns,” states and towns don’t vote on their own. Municipalities don’t write symphonies. People do that. And only registered people will write the next movement at the ballot box.

Carl Sukow ‘21 is a Physics major from Lexington, Virginia. Contact him at casukow@davidson.edu 

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