A number of important votes are set to take place across North Carolina on May 8.
The statewide ballot will contain everything from local elections and referendums to gubernatorial primaries and a vote on the Republican presidential nomination.
A proposed Amendment to the North Carolina Constitution, which will be included on the ballot, means to define a marriage as a union between one man and one woman to be the only marriage valid and recognized by the State. It has generated an enormous amount of controversy with opponents alleging that the amendment would unfairly target gay and lesbian minorities. Supporters maintain that the definition of marriage should be determined by the people.
Elected officials, such as Senator Kay Hagan and President Barack Obama, have weighed in on the marriage issue by speaking out against the amendment, commonly known as “Amendment One,” condemning it for potentially allowing the majority to determine the rights of a minority.
“[The amendment] would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and that’s why the President does not support it,” Obama’s North Carolina campaign spokesman told Raleigh’s News & Observer.
Western Carolina University students also spoke out about their feelings towards the amendment.
“Because of my religious convictions, I will be voting yes for Amendment One,” Meg Burrell said.
“I think people should be able to love and marry whoever they want,” Rebecca Mckerlie said of the Amendment One vote.
According to Adam Bink, the director of online programs for the courage campaign, North Carolina is the only state in the South without such an amendment written into its constitution, he said in an interview with The Huffington Post. However, with an envied university system and an emphasis on scientific research and education, North Carolina is also one of the most progressive states in the region. At the same time, the state legislature has historically backed social conservatism by banning alcohol before federal prohibition and passing democratic legislature that banned same sex marriage.
The Amendment vote has become a campaign issue for both parties with polls showing that while a majority of North Carolinians support the law banning same sex marriage, they are more divided on whether or not it should be incorporated into the state constitution. A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling in September found that 30 percent of North Carolinians support the Amendment, while 55 percent say they would vote against it. In contrast, the same poll showed that 61 percent of North Carolinians supported a law that banned same-sex marriage, while 31 percent were opposed. This shows how reluctant some are about adding the words to the Constitution. However, it is important to note the margin of error is +/-4.3 percent.
Congressional candidates for the 11th District of North Carolina Jim Hunt, Republican, and Cecil Bothwell, Democrat, spoke to The Western Carolinian about their campaigns and respective stances on the Amendment One vote.
“We support the amendment that is already state law,” Hunt’s campaign assistant said of the referendum. “We hope to get the literature written into the state’s constitution.”
Bothwell, who took time to speak with the paper directly, said he does not support the amendment and is “the only candidate in the race who has publicly spoken out against it.”
Bothwell continued that the amendment will “have ramifications far beyond its intent,” potentially threatening to undermine custody and property protections for unmarried, heterosexual couples. Additionally, he said that a state’s constitution is not supposed to be a way to enforce policy change, but rather a blueprint or guideline for how a state should govern.
Both candidates are focusing time and resources to reach out to the numerous young voters of Western Carolina University. Hunt spoke on April 24 for a number of Professor Kimberly Crawford’s classes. Bothwell spoke at a voter registration day in March in the University Center, but he added that he plans to spend more time on campus in the coming weeks. Hunt and Bothwell are vying for their parties’ nomination for the house seat of Democrat Heath Shuler, who announced in February that he will not run for reelection.
Locally, the May 8 vote will contain an important decision for Jackson County voters. Jackson County is currently a “dry” county, meaning the sale of alcohol outside of city limits is forbidden. Because Cullowhee is not an incorporated official town, the community must abide by the laws of the county rather than its own city ordinance. Those laws could change if voters decide to legalize countywide sale of alcohol. Jackson County would be the third county to vote for this change in western North Carolina.
Jackson County ballots will contain four alcohol related votes. The first deals with the sale of “malt beverages,” meaning beer, ale and lager and the second with the sale of “unfortified wine,” simply meaning fermented grape or apple juice. The third countywide referenda will be for permission of the operation of Alcohol Beverage Commission stores, or ABC stores. Such stores specifically sell liquors and spirits, including vodka, whisky and gin, to those of legal drinking age. The fourth and final vote related to alcohol will permit the sale of “mixed beverages in hotels, restaurants, private clubs, community theaters and convention centers.”
“Making alcohol legal should help the local economy,” said WCU student Megan Hart.
Lisa Lovedahl-Lehman, of the Jackson County board of elections office, said absentee voting for the May 8 vote began on Thursday, April 19 and ended on May 5. Nearby polling offices are located in the Cullowhee Rec Department, the Board of Elections office in Sylva, the Cashiers library and the Wolftown gym in Cherokee. Each office has its own hours of operation, but most are similar to Cullowhee’s Rec Department’s, which is open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays.
For more information on the May 8 vote and to view sample ballots for your registered party, please visit www.ncsbe.gov.