Submitted by, Leslie Flowers Ogilvie, Legislative Chair
NCAJ Newsletter, October 2012
Talking politics is usually a taboo subject particularly in the office. We discuss more benign matters such as family, football, and what beautiful weather we are having here in the great state of North Carolina. However, sometimes being taboo has a place. In 2010, the North Carolina General Assembly switched from Democratic control to Republican control for the first time in over 100 years. As many of us know, the result of this shift in power had an impact on many areas of law that we are still sorting out today. The areas of law most affected were those of personal injury, medical malpractice and workers' compensation. Now we have another important election coming up on November 6, 2012.
The most important message is this: GET OUT TO VOTE. Educate yourself on the candidates and their beliefs, especially if those beliefs will affect our clients and the law we use everyday to protect their rights. Republican candidate Pat McCrory for Governor has already indicated that he plans to support additional tort reform legislation.
Attached is a listing of the candidates that have the support of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ). These are candidates of both parties that the NCAJ believes will protect the rights of the injured and working people and access to the courts.
The judicial races are especially important. North Carolina needs fair-minded judges. Appellate Judges run as non-partisan, not as Republicans or Democrats. Their position on the ballot is easy to overlook, because they are listed separately from the County, State and Federal races that you will be voting for. If you vote a straight ticket, you must still vote for the judicial races separately.
If you need to register to vote, there are several ways for you to do this before Election Day on November 6. The deadline to register to vote in North Carolina is 25 days before the day of election, or October 12. You can mail the completed form to your County Board of Elections. If you mail the form, the mailing must be postmarked by October 12. You can also submit the completed form in person at numerous government agencies in your area including your local DMV, Public Assistance Agencies such as the Department of Social Services and Department of Public Health, Disability Services Agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation offices, Departments of Services for the Blind, Departments of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Departments of Mental Health Services, and the Employment Security Commission. You need to submit these forms in person before October 12. If you miss the registration deadline, you can still register to vote at One-Stop Voting sites in your county of residence during the early voting period.
Early voting begins Thursday, October 18 and lasts through Saturday, November 3. To register to vote during the One-Stop Voting period, you must (1) go to any One-Stop Voting Site in your county of residence, (2) fill out a voter registration application, and (3) provide proof of residency by showing appropriate identification with your name and current address. The forms of identification that are accepted are NC driver's license, tax or utility bill, bank statement, vehicle registration, paycheck stub, student ID or other government issued ID. One-Stop Voting Sites are located at the County Board of Elections office and other additional sites that the Board of Elections establishes. You can find One-Stop Voting locations online at: http://www.ncsbe.gov/. Go to the Absentee Voting tab and select One-Stop Absentee Voting.
You can also request a mail in Absentee Ballot from the County Board of Elections, but it needs to be received back prior to November 6. If you have any questions about where your County Board of Elections is located call the State Board of Elections at 866-522-4723. Or go to http://www.ncsbe.gov/. Go to "My Elections Board" at the top to locate your County Board of Elections and their contact information.
It's important that you vote but that is not enough. We must encourage co-workers, clients, friends, and family to vote as well. Social media opportunities make this free and easy. Use email, twitter, or Facebook to give your networks the information they need to vote intelligently.
Your law office can also do a lot through North Carolina Friends & Family. Friends & Family can help you educate your clients by accessing your client mailing list. They can connect you with NC-Votercode who will help sort your client list by voting history, electoral district, party and other information on public record, including who is registered and who is not. Friends & Family can provide sample letters and help you draft letters asking clients to register to vote, vote and informing them of the candidates you would like them to know more about. Finally, Friends & Family can connect you with a mailing house to help you get your letters out if you don't want to mail them yourself. The link to Friends & Family is www.northcarolinafriendsandfamily.org.
When communicating with clients about candidates, there are some important rules to remember. Your letter to your clients can educate them about the candidates and consider a candidate without expressly advocating for the candidate's election. Election rules prohibit you from saying "Vote for Candidate A", or "Elect Candidate B" unless you maintain independence from the candidate and report your expenditure to the proper Board of Elections.
Talk to your own friends and family about voting and the candidates that you support. Ask your clients if they are registered to vote. If they are not, provide them with a Registration Application. Be taboo! This is an important election. As legal assistants, our voice can be loud and far reaching. So don't forget- Vote! Vote! Vote!