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Protect the vote
Thank you for Fiona Morgan's excellent story sounding the alarm about one of the best-kept secrets this election year: The rights of North Carolina voters are at risk. And in this critical election, we need to act now to make sure the votes of all our state's citizens are counted on Election Day, and that North Carolina doesn't become the next Florida.

Sound alarmist? Consider the following:

  • In 2000, over 80,000 votes were thrown out in North Carolina due to voting system failures--more than in Florida.

  • Reports of harassment, intimidation and other barriers to voting--especially in communities historically locked out of the political process--are widespread.

  • In 2000, voters in Charlotte filed affidavits documenting 40 voters being turned away in one hour in a heavily African-American precinct.

  • Confusion over new election laws, such as a rule requiring some first-time voters to show "valid I.D." at the polls, threaten to prevent thousands of voters from casting a ballot--a troubling prospect in a state that already ranked 44th in voter turnout nationwide from 1980 to 2000.

    To address these problems, the Voting Rights Project at the Institute for Southern Studies is helping organize Election Protection North Carolina, a state-wide initiative to defend democracy at the polls.

    Election Protection N.C. aims to educate 500,000 voters about their rights, such as the right to vote with a "provisional ballot" if your name doesn't appear on the voter rolls.

    With the UNC Center for Civil Rights, we're also organizing lawyers to staff a Voting Rights Hotline--1-866-OURVOTE--that voters can call if they experience problems on Election Day.

    What can readers do to help? First, they can download the N.C. Voter's Bill of Rights at www.southernstudies.org and distribute it in their neighborhood, workplace, school, community group, place of worship, or other places that will reach potential voters, especially new voters.

    Second, for those who want to help monitor polls on Election Day, we'll be having volunteer training on Tuesday, Oct. 19, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Southwest Branch of the Durham County Library on Shannon Road (RSVP at 919-419-8311 x25 or tara@southernstudies.org by Oct. 18).

    Together, we can make sure the votes of all North Carolinians are cast and counted in November.
    Tara Purohit
    Chris Kromm
    Voting Rights Project
    Institute for Southern Studies

    The polarized family
    Thanks to an alert daughter, I read today's column ("Up Front," Sept. 15)--excellent writing and one with which I'm in full agreement. This is what alarms me: I live in DuPage County, Il., a Republican stronghold for decades. My friends are bright and well educated but total Bush administration supporters.

    The seven adult siblings in our family are in such polarized positions we cannot talk "politics" in the presence of the other "camp." How did such an extreme come to be!! Whose clever, fearful words put blinders on otherwise intelligent people? These are not "Joe Six-Packers!"

    My family tree is full of veterans from every war beginning with 1775 and Concord, but one son told me he would move his 18-year-old son to Canada rather than see him drafted (should that occur...or when). I fully understood and silently agreed. The most frightening thing in this nation: Kerry might not win!
    Suzanne Watt
    Naperville, Illinois

    Starlite deserves help
    If you enjoyed a movie at the Starlite, you may have noticed the gun shop when you rose for some popcorn or some other fine concession. My reaction was a kind of muted "eek!" since I don't encounter many guns in my daily life. But it was pretty clear that the gun shop and video store and the Starlite itself were a labor of love by an eclectic entrepreneur. None of the endeavors at the Starlite can be very profitable, but taken all together, it has sustained the business for many years, and I'm grateful for that.

    I can't imagine trying to solve the neighborhood's gun problems by discouraging a merchant, but that should be left to another endless debate. I do know that the Starlite needs our help if we don't want to lose another small outdoor movie venue. You can find the latest news and even donate online at www.saveourstarlite.org.
    Sean Korb
    Raleigh

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