This presidential election is indisputably different than those before it.
Unlike in the past, polls cannot name clear victors, candidates do not have total support from their parties and voters are discouraged and tempted to vote third party or to abstain from voting all together.
With a month left before the earliest votes of the election are cast, it is still unclear whether the winner will be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. New polls are constantly released, each offering different opinions on which candidate could win this historic election.
In such a close race, the winning vote could come down to a single state — to a single county even — placing substantial influence in the hands of a proportionally small number of voters. This year, North Carolina holds considerable power as one of the main battleground states that will shape the election. Currently, Clinton is winning the state by less than one percentage point, but data is continuously shifting.
“North Carolina has attracted frequent visits from Republican and Democratic presidential candidates this year, because it is one of the most evenly balanced states in recent presidential elections,” said John Dinan, a Politics and International Affairs professor who studies elections in North Carolina. “North Carolina is one of only four states where the margin of victory in the 2012 presidential election was within five percentage points, and it is one of only two states where voters changed their preferences between 2008 and 2012.”
Within the highly contested state is more specifically Forsyth County, home to Winston-Salem. A “Politico” poll named Forsyth County as one of the top 25 battleground counties to watch. The county is unpredictable, as citizens twice elected President Bush, but in the next two elections, chose President Obama. Such power centralized in a small goegraphic area merits the increased candidate and media attention to the state.
“In 2008 and 2012, Republican and Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates made several visits to the state, but the number and frequency of visits are higher in 2016,” Dinan said. “Focusing on the Piedmont Triad alone, Trump has made appearances in Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point, and Clinton has made an appearance in Greensboro. This is a level of attention not seen in prior years.”
Candidates will campaign and spend substantial time in the state, but statistically, in the end, the vote will be decided by voter turnout. Knowing the importance of voter turnout, efforts by both campaigns eagerly reach out to citizens of the states encouraging them to cast a ballot in their favor.
For many college students in North Carolina, their votes would typically be cast as absentee ballots in their respective home states. However, in this divisive election, students are encouraged by the state to register in North Carolina instead.
“The way our election system works, swing states play a critical role in who wins,” said sophomore Mariam Syed. “Everyone knows that Mississippi will go to Trump, and New York will go to Clinton. It comes down to swing states like North Carolina that determine who will become the next president.”
However, the weight of the presidential election should not overshadow other important elections this season. Mayoral, gubernatorial and congressional seats are also up for reelection.
“I am voting with an absentee ballot, because it’s really important for to me to still be able to vote for the congressional seats that are up at the same time as the presidential election,” said sophomore Hannah Preiser.
Nonetheless, for students most interested in the outcome of the presidential election, choosing to vote in North Carolina could have a heavier impact on the overall election because of its position to swing either way. North Carolina native and member of Wake the Vote, Carl McPhail notes the role battleground states have in 2016.
“Everyone’s vote obviously has an effect on this election,” McPhail said. “But if you vote in a swing state, like North Carolina, your vote could decide between Clinton or Trump. I would encourage every eligible voter at Wake Forest to register to vote in North Carolina because of the tied polls in the state.”
North Carolina undoubtedly holds tremendous power this presidential season as perhaps the closest battleground state of the election. With the ability to register in North Carolina, Wake Forest students can partake in electing the candidate of their choice in this significant, historical election.