Our Opinion: More early voting a reason to cheer regardless of party

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THUMBS UP to an expansion of early voting opportunities in November’s midterms that received the Wilson County Board of Elections’ stamp of approval this week.

The four-member bipartisan elections board — two Republicans and two Democrats — unanimously signed off on a one-stop early voting schedule that provides weekday and weekend polling place hours at both the Board of Elections office and the Wilson County Health Department.

That sends the right message: More opportunities to vote is better for everyone. We think it’s unfortunate that early voting is sometimes seen as a partisan issue with debates over Sunday availability tied to the tradition of “souls to the polls” events at African-American churches whose members are likely to lean Democratic. We support Sunday voting — and Saturday and weekday voting, too. It’s a matter of both-and, not either-or.

With six state constitutional amendments on the ballot this year, it may take citizens a few more minutes to read and consider the choices before casting their vote. Expanding one-stop allows for that extra time.

Early voting will run from Wednesday, Oct. 17 through Saturday, Nov. 3, with both polling sites open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Nov. 3. Both sites will be open from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28.

To encourage participation from all registered voters, those of every party and no party, elections officials should provide as many options as possible. Here in Wilson County, our Board of Elections is meeting that standard.

THUMBS DOWN to military charities Steps & Stages and Operation Troop Aid, which have agreed to settlements with the N.C. Department of Justice over allegations that they misused donations intended for active-duty servicemembers and veterans.

Attorney General Josh Stein announced the enforcement actions on Thursday in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission’s Operation Donate With Honor, a 50-state campaign to crack down on charities and fundraisers that use patriotism and support for the troops to mislead generous Americans.

“Members of the armed forces and their families sacrifice a great deal in service to our country,” he said in a news release. “People who take advantage of their service, or who divert donations meant to help them, are without a conscience. My office will do everything in our power to hold these individuals and organizations accountable.”

Unfortunately, the maxim of caveat emptor extends to charities, and with some unscrupulous folks out there, it’s incumbent upon all of us to be discerning donors. We urge Wilsonians to distribute dollars to local nonprofits where they can see how the money is used firsthand and to investigate state and national charities on websites like GuideStar and Charity Navigator before opening their wallets.

THUMBS UP to the Sidekix program, a community effort to bring children with special needs and disabilities together with their typical-developing peers. The group will forge genuine friendships, discourage bullying and isolation and benefit the kids without disabilities by teaching lessons of acceptance and compassion.

“For children with special needs or disabilities, the need for a friend or a sidekick is just as strong as for the typical-developing child,” explained Hunter Peebles, owner of Hunter’s Dance Studio and a Sidekix founder. “Rather than separate these two types of children, we want them to start to include each other and learn from each other.”

Peebles’ daughter, 23-year-old Caramy, helped launch the movement by offering to spend time with a young community member with special needs. Participants recently held their first of five summer events, a movie matinee at Wilson’s AMC Classic theater.

The second Sidekix session, a tumble and creative movement class for people of all ability levels, is planned from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. this Saturday at Hunter’s Dance Studio.

We commend Hunter and Caramy Peebles for their work in bringing kids and their parents together to foster mutual respect and understanding. As more folks find out about Sidekix, we expect the program to grow exponentially.

For more information about Sidekix or how you or your child can get involved, contact the group at 252-237-0024, visit its website at sidekixfriends.com or find the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sidekixwilson.