Today’s 24-hour news cycle constantly reminds us of the atrocities in the world. From the latest political jabs to the crisis in Syria, it can overwhelm even the most worldly individual.

I have found myself avoiding social media for the past few weeks. The din of true and untrue articles posted by the second is just too much for me right now.

However, I have paid attention to the stories about refugees ripped from their homes in war-torn countries who now have no place to call home. These refugees didn’t live in a country that allowed them to elect leaders who represented their values and political ideals.

Throughout the history of the United States of America, our forefathers and mothers have fought for democracy. James Madison, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr. each played a pivotal role in securing the right to vote for all citizens of the USA.

The first time I visited a voting booth, I was four years old. My mom took me with her to vote in the 1992 presidential election and I still remember standing in line, looking around at all the members of my community waiting to exercise their most valued right as an American citizen.

My parents have always emphasized the importance of voting to my siblings and me, so by taking me to the voting site that year and every subsequent year until I was a preteen, my mom served as a role model for excellent voting habits.

I have voted in all elections, presidential or not, since I was 18 years old, and this year is no exception. I have noticed that in presidential election years, the importance of voting in state and local elections is often underscored by the drama of the national election.

North Carolina has become infamous on the national stage with the passing of House Bill 2, which is the law that requires individuals to use the restroom matching the gender on their birth certificate.

This bill has resulted in increased dialogue about the subject, and as a result, North Carolina residents’ votes for state representatives are especially meaningful this year.

It is easy to confirm whether you are registered to vote on the North Carolina State Board of Elections website at https://enr.ncsbe.gov/voter_search_public.

The site is very helpful because it lists polling location, voter history and provides a sample ballot. Most Americans know the two main presidential candidates, but many do not know each and every candidate or position they must vote for when they enter the voting booth. I definitely didn’t before I downloaded the sample ballot.

After downloading the sample ballot for my district, it was time to get down to brass tacks and do some real research.

There are several different websites that consolidate candidate’s platforms so you don’t have to visit each individual candidate’s website. I found the sites below helpful during my research.

Ballotpedia. Excellent overview of major state elections. Provides a biography for most candidates. www.ballotpedia.org/North_Carolina_judicial_elections,_2016

North Carolina Voter Guide. Allows you to compare two candidates on one page to see how they stack up on major issues. www.ncvoterguide.org

North Carolina Voter. Similar to North Carolina Voter Guide, but provides PDFs of state and county voting guides. Also provides information on how to get a ride to a polling site if you are unable to drive yourself. www.ncvoter.org/voter-guides

Fact Check. The modern attack advertisement usually lists some awful thing that the opponent has done in the past. Fact check helps voters understand the truth in these (sometimes) outlandish statements. www.factcheck.org.

North Carolinians also have the privilege of early voting, which runs through Saturday. If you are not registered to vote, you can visit an early voting polling site (find one at https://vt.ncsbe.gov/ossite) in your county of residence and register at the same time you vote.

Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s elections, I will be proud of my vote. Our vote is our voice, and with all the tragedy in the world today, I feel it is even more important to use my voice. There are so many who do not have this inalienable right, and I will do my best to elect candidates who understand the importance of our country’s role in modern global affairs. Will you?