Our History

Founded on Nov. 5, 1999 through the forward-thinking support of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the nonpartisan and nonprofit N.C. Center for Voter Education has for a decade been a leading source for information on government, politics and elections in North Carolina as well as a key proponent of reforms designed to empower voters.

Providing vital leadership to the Center in its early days was Robert Morgan, esteemed former U.S. senator, N.C. Senate president pro tempore and N.C. attorney general.  Morgan’s guidance, along with that of founding Executive Director Chris Heagarty, established the Center as a trusted source for voter resources and a respected voice for citizens within the halls of government.

During its first 10 years of service, the N.C. Center for Voter Education has provided facts on voting and elections to millions of North Carolinians through its print and online voter guides. Along with its comprehensive voter guides, the Center has produced the “Judge for Yourself” candidate interview series, offering more in-depth coverage of North Carolina candidates -- especially in “down-ballot” races -- than any other source.

To supplement its voter guides and bolster its election coverage, the Center has partnered with UNC-TV since 2006 to produce a series of statewide candidate forums giving voters facts on candidates in the often-overlooked contests for N.C. Supreme Court and N.C. Court of Appeals, along with races for the Council of State.

Since 2004, the Center has engaged young voters and future voters through the Go Vote PSA Contest, with high school and college students producing videos encouraging voter participation.  In 2008, the Center was selected by the N.C. State Board of Elections to serve as North Carolina’s coordinator for the National Student/Parent Mock Election, involving thousands of students across the state in the democratic process.

The Center has hosted public events, forums and conferences on issues pertaining to voting and democracy.  Guests of the Center have included nationally renowned journalist Bill Moyers, prominent educator Bill Friday, North Carolina’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice Henry Frye and U.S. Senator John McCain.

Since its founding, the Center has engaged in scientific polling and research in order to take the pulse of North Carolina voters, assessing their needs and designing improvements to the democratic process that benefit citizens across the state.

In 2002, the Center was a key proponent of the landmark Judicial Campaign Reform Act, which established North Carolina as the first state in the nation to create public campaign financing for its appellate courts.  In 2007, the Center again provided vital expertise in the creation of a program of public campaign financing for three Council of State offices -- state auditor, commissioner of insurance and state superintendent of public instruction. 

Along with this momentous legislation, the Center has worked on important reforms to allow for increased voter participation, including same-day registration to make voting more accessible for all North Carolinians. The Center also was a strong supporter of “pre-registration” for 16- and 17-year-olds, helping our state’s young people to more effectively be welcomed onto the rolls of active voters when they turn 18.

Since 2001, the Center has provided insight and analysis into politics in North Carolina and nationally with its syndicated column, published in newspapers throughout the state. 

In 2008, the Center expanded its coverage of state and national government with the launch of VoterRadio.com, an online radio station available through the Web and iTunes Radio.   Programming on VoterRadio.com includes live and on-demand audio of daily sessions in both the state House and Senate, giving citizens from the mountains to sea a first-hand account of the work in their Legislature.

And in 2009, the Center launched “The Voter Update Magazine,” amplifying yet again the insight and analysis of government that it provides to North Carolinians.

A solid foundation was laid for the Center by its early leaders, including former Sen. Robert Morgan, Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson, N.C. Appeals Court Judge Wanda Bryant, former state Sen. Leslie Winner, Charlotte Observer journalist Jack Betts and former Executive Director Chris Heagarty, among many others, along with the support of citizens and elected officials across the state.

Now under the guidance of a 10-member board of directors led by David Beck and with the support of staff led by Executive Brent Laurenz, the N.C. Center for Voter Education boldly moves into its next decade of service to the people of North Carolina, dedicated to informing and involving citizens so that they may more fully participate in democracy.

We invite you to join us in our efforts to empower voters.