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Don't let the Senate race turn you off from voting 

A danger to North Carolina

The political campaigns of Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis are both so ubiquitous and negative, my second grader recently asked me why they hate each other so much and told me he wished they'd shut up.

For weeks, my whole family has avoided YouTube and television. (If Netflix ever allows commercials, God help us.) Yet somehow even my 7-year-old has been bombarded with their rhetoric to the point of exasperation.

It's probably the most expensive Senate race in the country, with millions pouring in from special interest groups, dark money groups and the notorious Koch brothers to finance ads telling us how much Tillis hates women or Hagan loves Obama.

I'm one of the most politically engaged people in my peer group, and even I am agreeing with my friends when they say they want Hagan and Tillis to just go away. I may have mostly dodged their commercials, but my email inbox has been flooded with messages begging for money under the most absurdly discouraging subject lines the parties could muster, like "It's over, it's done, go home" and "Kiss any hope goodbye." (Yes, these are real.)

Numerous studies have found that when campaigns are negative on both sides, voters become alienated and disgusted by it, and nearly half the electorate will wash their hands of the whole matter. An early 1990s study in The American Political Science Review summarized findings this way: "We would go so far as to say that negative advertising may pose a serious anti democratic threat."

The Center for Public Integrity found that in one week in October, there were more than 10,800 spots that criticized either Tillis or Hagan, and in those seven days, North Carolina's TV stations aired a negative ad once every minute.

It's enough to make any reasonable person want to completely disengage from the democratic process.

But today, I humbly beg you not to do so. Ignore the constant calls for attention to the Senate race, and focus closer to home. In my lifetime, there's never been a more crucial time to use the power vested in us by our nation's forefathers to protect our state from radical extremists, like those currently in Raleigh.

We have a General Assembly full of wealthy old white men whose views are so out of touch with modern America, our state has become a national punchline. Recent cringe-worthy situations include N.C. representatives waging an expensive, unwinnable war with the U.S. court system just to keep gays people from marrying, and other states holding job fairs here to lure our teachers away.

But it's our children who suffer most. They are hungry, under-educated, in need of medical care their parents can't afford and face insurmountable environmental hazards as adults if North Carolina's policies continue as they are. They have no voice in our electoral process. They're counting on you to help by voting in someone who cares about them.

In our state, there are thousands of people in prison or on parole for marijuana offenses who aren't allowed to vote. Meanwhile, lawmakers won't allow voters to decide whether or not medical marijuana should be legal. They blocked a bill that would've put it on the ballot after polls showed a majority of constituents supported it. Those people in prison and on parole for something a majority of voters want legalized are counting on you to remove the obstacles to their freedom currently in office.

Today, I implore you to research judicial candidates and what they stand for. One day, you may stand before them to find no compassion for your situation.

Research write-in candidates who are using every resource they have, despite being blocked from the ballot. North Carolina has the toughest ballot restrictions in the country, thus eliminating all competition from the two big parties and their agendas.

Remember that if we want a state whose laws cater to more than old rich white people, then that demographic can't be the only ones voting en masse. Don't listen to partisan cable news anchors who tell you not to vote. Don't listen to the hipster who thinks he knows everything tell you it's a waste of time. Don't listen to the voice in your head spouting off all the things you could do instead of stand in line at the poll between now and Nov. 4.

Appreciate the fact that your vote is still legal — since the state legislature has certainly been trying its hardest to discourage certain people from the process — and able to change things, and use it. Our future quite literally depends on it.

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