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Pandemic prompts huge absentee ballot request

What’s happening in North Carolina right now with absentee ballot requests is staggering. 

Currently there are around 7.1 million registered voters in North Carolina. Breaking it down, there are 2.55 million Democrats, 2.13 million Republicans, and 2.37 million unaffiliated and a sprinkling of Green, Libertarian and other party affiliations.

As of last week, about 600,000 absentee ballot requests have been made, 16 times more than the 38,871 requests submitted as of this time in 2016. Democrats have requested 300,000 absentee ballots, more than three times as many as Republicans.

Time will tell how this will affect results. President Trump, while visiting Wilmington last week, implored citizens to vote twice — once by mail and then in person — in order to test each county’s election system capabilities. State elections supervisor Karen Brinson Bell, subsequently, politely reminded the state’s citizens that it is a Class I felony to try and vote more than once in the same election.

Mail-in and absentee voting have become a controversial issue as many GOP politicians have openly worried that fraud associated with these ballots could skewer election results. Trump has fanned those flames, but election officials here and elsewhere say there will not be problems tallying the votes accurately.

 

Rumble

The women in our company conceived of and then developed, a weekly newsletter geared toward women, and they are doing some excellent work. If you haven’t checked it out, I encourage readers to do so, both men and women. It’s called Rumble, and you can find the latest edition here — https://mailchi.mp/330f022f20c8/celebrating-womens-right-to-vote-2529254?e=54c3ff09b8.

We are always looking for new ways to connect with readers, and so this idea made sense from the beginning. The editors focus on a specific topic with each issue, filling the newsletter with original content, podcasts, interviews with regional leaders and more — and always with a focus on Western North Carolina and its people. It’s just a great read, and as I said earlier, it’s made by women — SMN News Editor Jessi Stone, SMN and Smoky Mountain Living Associate Editor Susanna Shetley, and SMN Staff Writer Hannah McLeod — for woman, but there’s something for all curious minds.

OK, shameless self-promotion here, but I would encourage people to subscribe now while we’re offering prize drawings for those who get others to subscribe to the newsletter and for those who sign up themselves.

 

Indoor time

I’ve read many articles that used anecdotal observation to deduce that many of us may be spending more time outdoors during this pandemic. Health clubs and gyms are closed, schools were closed, no movie theaters or large concert venues, many offices closed, etc., so people perhaps were substituting some of that indoor time to get outside, walk, hike, do yard work, fix things around the house, etc. Hell, our company even holds some meetings outside now so we can social distance. 

If so, that’s probably a good thing. 

According to research by two Harvard scholars (“Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity,” Joseph G. Allen and John D. Macomber, in this week’s New Yorker), Americans and Europeans on average spend 90 percent of their lives indoors. If your 50, that means — if you’re average — you’ve spent 45 years of your existence inside a house, car, apartment, office building, school, store, subway, train, airplane or something similar.

The essay goes on to speculate about what that means for health (both mental and physical). It seems logical that more time outside would lead to better wellness, peace of mind, health, and just a better life in general.

Ninety percent. Who would’ve thunk?

 

Bikes, bites and brews.

I like to ride bikes, but my wife, Lori, loves to ride. It always puts a smile on her face. And during the pandemic, it’s been a good way to social distance.

This weekend we traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee, stayed downtown, and rode bikes for two days. The place has transformed itself over the last 20 years into one of the Southeast’s best small cities: fastest city-wide internet around, an aquarium, minor league baseball, and a host of nice, smaller museums (most closed at this time).

City leaders put a great emphasis on biking, hiking and walking. There’s a great trail that basically goes from downtown to the top of Lookout Mountain, the site of a famous Civil War battle won by the Union that is credited with helping turned the tide of the war. It’s a nearly 10-mile climb, but it’s only steep at the very top. The view back down to Chattanooga is stunning. We rode past tons of hikers and runners.

After that ride on Saturday, we got up Sunday morning and rode the Tennessee River Trail in the city, which is 13 miles and runs through city streets, parks and industrial areas while hugging the Tennessee River (into which the French Broad River flows, into which the Pigeon River flows, into which Richland Creek in Waynesville flows — same water we see every day), a 26-mile out and back.

After our rides, we always search out restaurants and breweries to visit, these days only those with outdoor seating and social distancing. We’ve taken similar weekend trips to Greenville, South Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee, and Galax, Virginia (New River Rail Trail).

Lori suggested we compile a book she suggested we call “Bike, Bites and Brews.” We shall see. More importantly, the communities in WNC would do themselves well by making more investments in greenways and trails within our small towns and outlying areas. It’s an investment that would benefit locals and tourists.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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