With the Fall semester reaching a fever pitch, students are often being pulled in many directions. One such direction is the municipal elections knocking at our collective door.

Triangle Blog Blog is a civics-loving, Shameful Nuisance-inducing group of eccentric do-gooders. In the spirit of the blog, we recently released TBB’s endorsements for the 2023 races. As stated in that post, you don’t have to take our word for it. You are encouraged to take some time to look into the different races and who aligns with your vision of our community.

Now, you may be thinking “Come one?!?! Yet another assignment???”

I hear you! I’m a student too.

So, we have drafted a guide on how to navigate the preparation process efficiently and without losing your mind while balancing your other obligations.

First, it’s important to be clear about why being plugged into municipal elections is important for students.

  • Because we are a university town, our community is constantly changing. Students come and go. While we’re here we have the opportunity to make our home a better place while we can.
  • It is also our duty to meaningfully contribute to the spaces and places that have held us, fed us, and loved us while pursuing our next steps. This vibrant energy does not have to stay in the residence halls or libraries.
  • We are not just students, we are also humans. We go to local parks, enjoy the Carrboro Farmers Market, and catch the bus. We have the opportunity to build local power, amplify the voices of the historically (and presently) marginalized, and co-create a connected, thriving community by way of more representative leadership.
  • We must do our part to be responsible neighbors.

More personally, there are a handful of reasons why I do my best to be plugged into the who’s who and what’s what of our little oasis.

  1. I care not only about my wellness, but the wellness of those around me. It’s important to use my privilege to shape the world I share, even if I won’t necessarily see the benefits for myself.
  2. My values position me to consider how I can make strategic, tangible impacts on my local community.
  3. The “younger” vote is often overshadowed by corporate and capitalist interests. With the path our General Assembly is going, it’s even more important to be plugged into what’s happening.
  4. There is a concerted effort to make Carrboro and Chapel Hill unfriendly, inhospitable, and unwelcoming to average everyday people like me and my loved ones. I may not be able to contribute to a $120,000 PAC, however, my voice does matter.

In typical fashion, I am not one to just talk at you, beloved reader. Below is a quick guide on how to hack the process from start to finish. Take what works for you and leave the rest!

Guide on How to Know What’s Going on with the 2023 Municipal Elections While Being a Busy Student Navigating the Fall 2023 Semester

That’s so fetch.

Get in loser, we’re gonna vote vote!

    1. Prepare your snacks, beverages, paper/note, and space. I personally will have a show pulled up for background noise. I will block out a solid chunk of time (for me, at least two episodes worth of effort). I set a time boundary to help me not end up in a late night rabbit hole.
    2. Think about what matters to you. Think about what could help your neighborhood blossom. Write that down if that feels good.
she doesn't even vote here: mean girls meme
On Tuesdays in November, we vote.

She doesn’t even go here

      1. Figure out if and where you are registered. Look yourself up on the NC Board of Elections Voter Search to make sure you are actively registered where you live. Confirm the details are correct. If you’re not registered, you can still register and vote during the early voting period (which ends this Saturday).
      2. Take note of your jurisdictions, voting locations, and sample ballot (at the bottom of the page).

four school board members for you glen coco

Four school board members for you Glen Coco!

        1. Now is when the bulk of work is done. You can decide now who you want to vote for at the ballot. Do some searching to figure out which races and candidates you would like to vote for. Be sure to write them down and make sure you have selected the correct number of people. It helps to know what the role of the position is supposed to entail.
          1. Who am I voting for?

If you live in Chapel Hill, you’re voting for:

  • One mayor: council members Jess Anderson and Adam Searing are running.
  • Four council members: There are ten candidates running.

If you live in Carrboro, you’re voting for:

  • One mayor: council member Barbara Foushee is running unopposed.
  • Three council members: There are five candidates running.

If you live in Chapel Hill or Carrboro, you’re also voting for:

How do I tell the differences between the candidates?

Some years, it’s really tough to tell the difference between candidates running in local races. This year, it’s easier because many of the candidates are running as part of a slate. A slate is a group of candidates who are running together, but not. They have their individual races, but choose to buddy up with others to form a public alliance.

In Carrboro, incumbent Eliazar Posada and challengers Catherine Fray and Jason Merrill are running on the “Better Together” slate. They support greenways and affordable housing.

April Mills and Stephanie Wade are also running together. They are concerned about the impact of stormwater on single-family neighborhoods.

In Chapel Hill, council member Adam Searing and four council candidates—Elizabeth Sharp, Renuka Soll, Breckany Eckhardt, and David Adams—are running on a slate. They are against building more apartments in town and are concerned about preserving single-family neighborhoods and want to devote more town resources to parks. Jeffrey Hoagland is not part of the Searing slate, but shares policy views with the Searing slate members.

Council member Jess Anderson is running for mayor on the “complete community” framework, which seeks to tie together new development, including apartment buildings, with building affordable housing, greenways, parks, and other amenities. She also supported making it legal to build two-family homes in all neighborhoods in Chapel Hill.

Five council candidates—Melissa McCullough, Theodore Nollert, Erik Valera, Amy Ryan, and Jon Mitchell— all support the “complete community” framework. All of these candidates except for Amy Ryan, who is the only incumbent in the council race, supported legalizing two-family homes in all neighborhoods in Chapel Hill.

The school board race is more complex, in part because there are a lot of good candidates. You can read TBB’s endorsements here.

  1. If you want to know more about the candidates, you can find information in a variety of places, including TBB, IndyWeekThe Daily Tar Heel, and Chapelboro (the website for WCHL.)

Make your voting plan + phone a friend!

    1. Election day is November 7th this year. You can vote on that day, with an absentee ballot by mail, or at one of the Early Voting locations. Unfortunately, you will need an approved photo ID to vote. Fortunately, a UNC ID is one of the approved photo IDs, so just bring your One Card.
    2. Decide where you will be voting–you can vote anywhere during the Early Voting period. Stick with your listed voting location for Election Day. Be sure that the location you are going to is open!
    3. Confirm how you will get to your voting location. Will you walk over to the local school, catch a bus to the community center, or bike to your preferred stop?
    4. Lock down who you are sharing your plans and success with.

Knock it out!

      1. Grab your clean copy. Get to the polls. Do the thing. Get your cute sticker. CELEBRATE!

Now what?!

    1. Now, you have thought about your values, looked into candidates, made your voting plan, voted, and celebrated. You may feel totally satisfied. Some of you may be wanting more! Well, I’ve got good news for you. Think about what’s next. Once again, it takes effort to participate in the municipal election.
    2. It’s important to consider the ways in which we can make change happen beyond and in addition to voting. Do you need to be on the ballot next year, maybe in five years? Do you need to be showing up to council meetings? Do you need to be sending regular emails and hold a school board member accountable? Draft your action steps. Share with a friend or three. Do enough!

Like many students, I am also incredibly busy navigating my own education, personal life, and desire to be a human. Even still, I consider it a part of my responsibility as a good neighbor, to educate myself and vote. While I wasn’t born and raised here, I do live, work, sleep, play, commune, shop, move, learn, eat, and love here. It aligns with my personal and professional values to do good wherever I am at, no matter how long I’m there.

In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.

Bridgette (they/them) is a dynamic force for (slightly) chaotic good. They love reproductive justice, counterspaces, and proselytizing about the harms of stroads.