Hundreds of marchers in Graham, N.C. walked to the polls on Election Day and to protest police brutality (Photo by Alvin Jacobs Jr. for Cardinal & Pine.) Going beyond the election.
Hundreds of marchers in Graham, N.C. walked to the polls on Election Day and to protest police brutality (Photo by Alvin Jacobs Jr. for Cardinal & Pine.)

Three NC women who worked to turn out the vote this election talk about the stress of waiting for election results, and the future. 

With votes still being counted across North Carolina and several other battleground states, the final tallies for the 2020 election may not be known until next week, if not later. 

And while a Biden win seems imminent should he retain his current lead in key states such as Pennsylvania and Georgia, the waiting has been tough for many North Carolinians. 

“I’ve spent the past four years holding my breath,” says Wilmington resident Colby Perkins, who added that she’s been concerned about how COVID restrictions have been politicized. “I worry we’ll lose many more Americans if he’s reelected.” 

She added, “Waiting for results has absolutely felt like a slow heart attack.”

READ MORE: Get the Latest Updates with Cardinal & Pine’s Election Blog

Perkins says volunteering at the polls helped alleviate some of her anxiety leading up to the election, but this week has been tougher. 

“I’ve been doom scrolling since Monday,” she says.

Regardless of Outcome, Efforts to Get Out the Vote Paid Off

Volunteering has also served as a balm this election season for Winston-Salem resident Addison Ore. Ore spent hours canvassing, both in person and over the phone, talking to voters who overwhelmingly expressed their desire to remove President Trump from office. North Carolina saw 75% turnout from its registered voters in 2020, a record amount of people coming out to vote.

“I had over 3,000 conversations with voters – mostly in NC, but also in other battleground states,” says Ore. “I was deeply moved and inspired by voters who expressed their love for this country and their fear that democracy was at risk in this election.” 

Buoyed by those conversations, Ore expected an overwhelming victory for Democratic candidates. But as the numbers trickled in on Election Night, she was disappointed by losses in the US Senate and House, as well as the tight presidential race.

“I stayed up until 4 a.m. watching returns, slept for a couple of hours, and went back to the TV,” she says. “During the day, I went on an accelerated trip through the five stages of grief. I had to get to acceptance for my own mental health.”

Ore likened this feeling of anticipation tinged with disappointment to waking up on Christmas morning as a kid.

“When you were a kid did you always get everything you wanted for Christmas? Of course not. Yes, I wanted Dems to take the Senate and increase our numbers in the House, but what I wanted most of all was to get rid of Trump. And we are a whisper away from doing just that.”

Addison Ore, a Winston-Salem resident who is hoping for a Biden win.

Perkins also lamented the likely loss by Democratic candidates like Cal Cunningham, who was challenging Republican Thom Tillis for a North Carolina US Senate seat, as well as local candidates in New Hanover County. But the national race has left her feeling especially troubled, particularly as voting numbers show the demographics of Trump supporters.

“I’m deeply concerned about the exit polls suggesting 55% of white women voted for Trump,” Perkins, who is white, says. “It feels like a moral betrayal. As a gay person, I have a lot riding on the Dems taking control back in the Senate, as well. It’s been a roller coaster.”

Getting Ready for What’s Next 

Burlington resident Shonda Yarborough knows that roller coaster feeling all too well. Yarborough volunteered at the polls for the first time this election, and she was present as fellow activists faced off against police in Graham last weekend. She said she personally experienced vitriol from some voters at the polls where she volunteered, but even those negative experiences couldn’t dampen her overall enthusiasm.

“This is my first year doing this, really pushing, and I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I’m a fighter, so I’m excited about the election and how things are going right now. Every one of my candidates didn’t win, but we’ll be back again, and we’ll have another shot.”

Yarborough says that while the waiting is tough, seeing every single ballot add to the total reaffirms her work to encourage others to vote.

“This is a living example that every vote counts. It’s at the wire, neck-and-neck, and when you’re at the wire, every vote counts.”

Shonda Yarborough, of Burlington, about the 2020 election.

“Georgia was being separated by thousands and then the lead shrunk and shrunk and shrunk—that’s people’s votes. Every vote counts, every vote matters, and I’ve been trying to get people to see that.”

And while all three women are excited by the prospect of a Biden presidency, they agree there’s still a lot of work to be done for the Democratic Party and the nation as a whole.

“My time with Progressive Turnout Project felt like the most important work I’ve ever done in my life and even though it looks like NC will not turn blue, my faith in democracy – and people – has been restored,” Ore says. “The work continues. It always does.”