North Carolina: An empty campus says a lot about the state of the race.

By Jonathan Martin


North Carolina has 15 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 3.7 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated a Tossup.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — I have visited this charming college town too many times to count over the years, sometimes to cover campaigns and more often for fun. But I’ve never seen Chapel Hill as quiet as I found it last weekend.

The coronavirus has closed down a number of local landmarks, like Crook’s Corner restaurant, and forced the University of North Carolina to conduct classes online, leaving some students in town and others back home.

The candidates on the ballot this year are trying to adjust. Students whom I interviewed said there were voter registration efforts taking place via text messages and social media, while some professors were using their video-conducted classes to encourage undergraduates to register.

Around town, there were signs of such efforts. Literally.

“Double Check, Make sure you are registered to vote at your current address,” read one lawn sign, planted next to a tree a block off Franklin Street, the beating heart of the community. It instructed passers-by to “Search NC DMV Voter.”

A nearby pub was offering on-site voter registration along with its takeout offerings and another lure: dog treats. The red, white and blue banner read, “Bark the Vote.”

Some Democrats, as is their wont, are nervous about the implications of voting in the age of Covid-19. They wonder if the students, from North Carolina and beyond, who attend the state’s many excellent universities will still find a way to cast their ballots. My conversations with those around town suggest that at least those who have remained in Chapel Hill intend to vote.

Whether they do in large numbers, though, could make the difference between Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden winning the state.

Most every political veteran in North Carolina, Democrat or Republican, is expecting a close race. Each of the last three presidential races in the state has been decided by less than four percentage points.

The Supreme Court fight could reshape a neck-and-neck race — a New York Times/Siena College poll this month found Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden effectively in a dead heat in North Carolina. But a number of people in the state have already voted: Absentee ballots began going out to the state’s voters three weeks ago.

What’s on many of their minds was made clear to me by a woman who, seeing me walk dejectedly away from a closed Crook’s Corner, pulled her S.U.V. over to lament what the virus has wrought and suggest a few places in town that remain open.

But as she beckoned me over to her open, passenger-side window she first offered an admonition in a honeyed, Carolina accent: “Mask up, buttercup.”

The Latest

A crucial stretch of the race is about to start as President Trump’s Supreme Court pick and his first debate with Joe Biden loom. Read the latest.

How to Vote

Many rules have changed during the pandemic, making it harder to figure out how to cast your ballot. This interactive guide can help you ensure your vote is counted.

Paths to 270

Joe Biden and Donald Trump need 270 electoral votes to reach the White House. Try building your own coalition of battleground states to see potential outcomes.

Democrat

Republican

Keep Up With Our Coverage

Get an email recapping the day’s news

Download our mobile app on iOS and Android and turn on Breaking News and Politics alerts

Site Index

Site Information Navigation

Source: Read Full Article