More than 3.1 million people have already voted in North Carolina, almost the exact number of total early ballots cast in 2016. This phenomenon isn’t limited to North Carolina. More than 71.5 million people have voted across the country with 6 days left until election day.

People are demanding their voices be heard. They are willing to brave logistical hurdles, long lines, and staggering wait times because we all still know our democracy is worth it. But, it is disturbing to me that so many are going out of their way to purposefully undermine the sanctity of free and fair elections. 

Donald Trump has already laid the groundwork to declare victory in this election even in the event the voters say otherwise.  Presidential election polls are close here in North Carolina.  We are now a “tossup” state, but rather than seeing what the voters have to say, Trump has said he will be the winner on November 3rd, and if he is not, the election is “rigged.” His baseless allegations about voter fraud and corruption are merely a flimsy attempt to prop up his fragile ego should he lose.  Losing an election stings—I know, firsthand—but doing so with dignity is the necessary and admirable thing to do. But alas, Donald Trump just isn’t that guy.

As a state representative, I will do everything in my power to make sure the outcome of this election represents the will of the people, and that the representatives we send to the electoral college were chosen by you. I will defend the Constitution as I have sworn to do and that means making sure people’s voices are heard.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do:

Vote. Vote early, vote by mail, vote on Election Day, vote however you choose—but vote and make sure your vote is counted

Be patient. There will be an unprecedented number of absentee ballots to count and some will arrive after Election Day. It is going to take time to count them in order to determine the actual results, so we may not know the winner of certain races, perhaps even the presidential race, for several days or weeks. This is not because of fraud or corruption. It is because we are in the middle of a pandemic, many more people voted by mail to stay safe, and those ballots take time to count. Do not let Trump or his enablers convince you otherwise. 

Any apparent lead that Trump has on Election Night may very well represent what has been called a “Red Mirage,” where Election Day ballot totals seem to favor the Republican candidate early on and then shift Democratic as more mail-in ballots are tallied. Mail-in ballots tend to trend Democratic because Democrats are more likely to vote by mail than Republicans and because they are more likely to avoid Election Day in-person voting due to the coronavirus. Again, do not let Trump or his representatives fool you, delayed results are an entirely predictable circumstance this election year and certainly not evidence of election rigging. 

And finally, let’s trust our people. Poll workers are not part of some cabal. They are our neighbors and friends. They care about free and fair elections and they want to make sure democracy is protected just like you and me. They will protect your vote and the integrity of our system. I have far more faith in them than I do in a President who seems far too comfortable with encouraging chaos to hold onto power. 

Trump has already said he will only accept the election results if he wins. He’s no different than the school yard bully we all knew as children. The stakes of this election are the highest they have ever been because our democratic system itself is at stake. Here in North Carolina, we’re taking this election seriously and we won’t have our democracy stolen.

Deb Butler is a North Carolina State Representative Deb Butler, representing House District 18 (New Hanover and Brunswick Counties). She also serves as North Carolina Democratic House Whip. 

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