North Carolinians: Stand together against election deniers and conspiracy theorists

(Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

This election Let’s choose freedom over fear, proof over accusations, country over party, and people over politics. 

North Carolinians will disagree on everything from college basketball to which part of the state has the best barbecue, but one thing we’ve always come together around is that our election results should be respected. Each and every one of us has our own special reason for how we cast our vote. And when we go to the polls, we do so with the hope that our preferred candidate comes out victorious. Now, that doesn’t always happen. And that’s okay. Ask any middle schooler old enough to go to their first Hornets game and they’ll tell you that you can’t win ‘em all in life. The same goes for our elections.

Unfortunately, that kind of common sense is rapidly becoming less common. A growing number of elected officials and public figures in North Carolina and beyond have decided that their politics are more important than our democracy. Last election, the country was left shell-shocked after discovering the lengths to which some went to overturn the presidential election results. They claimed, without evidence, that the election had been unfair (these claims have been debunked several times over by government officials, judges, and elected leaders from both parties). In the years since the “Big Lie” hasn’t faded into obscurity. On the contrary, it’s taken root and grown among a group of election-denying extremists looking to gain power by hook or crook.

A recent analysis found that nearly 60 percent of all Americans, including many North Carolinians, will have someone on their ballot this fall who believes that the 2020 elections were stolen. Scarier still, there are several candidates running for major congressional seats in key states who have declared that they won’t commit to accepting election results, should they lose.

Let’s be clear: It’s okay for political candidates to challenge election results – we have an entire legal process to handle those kinds of challenges. What’s not okay is for candidates to reject election results and claim victory without any basis for their actions.

Sour grapes and conspiracy theories aren’t valid reasons to undermine an entire election system. You need to have proof. American elections are models of freedom, fairness, and choice for the rest of the world. Here in North Carolina, our poll workers and election officials work around the clock to make sure that every last vote gets counted, and that’s a big deal. It’s critical that North Carolinians trust in their election system – after all, our democracy runs on trust. So, if someone’s going to play footsie with undermining public trust in our election system, they better have a good reason for it and a heck of a lot of proof to back up their case.

Candidates, armed with conspiracy theories, challenging election results isn’t something we’d accept in any other domain. Imagine if the Carolina Panthers made a miracle run to qualify for the playoffs in January, only for one of the teams they beat in the final weeks to turn around and refuse to recognize the results of the game on the grounds that they “felt” like the game wasn’t fair. You can bet that the NFL would waste little time in shutting down those complaints and getting on with the rest of the season. We should do the same here in North Carolina.

Crying wolf over our elections just because you didn’t win isn’t noble and it certainly isn’t harmless – it’s the worst, most dangerous kind of sore losing there is. The efforts to overturn the 2020 elections were a tough time for all of us, but we got through it together. We did it by focusing on the principles that every North Carolinian holds dear: freedom, truth, and justice.

When North Carolinians wake up on the morning of November 9, the sun will rise as it always does. Mount Mitchell will still be the tallest mountain on the east coast and we’ll still be first in flight. Our neighbors will still be our neighbors, no matter who they voted for, and our state democracy will still be there, holding strong as it has for centuries.

This election, let’s choose freedom over fear, proof over accusations, country over party, and people over politics.

Melissa Price Kromm is the executive director of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections.

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North Carolinians: Stand together against election deniers and conspiracy theorists