As Joe Biden assumes the presidency today, he does so with many in the nation believing he is not the rightful winner of the presidency.

Many across the country believe the 2020 Presidential election was rigged, something put out by the #stopthesteal efforts that included everything from contributing to the Trump post-election challenges in certain states to individuals urging their congressional representatives to formally contest the results of the electoral college.

Individuals in this nation have seemingly joined “camps” where divergent views are held, all bolstered by a differing set of “facts” that are relied on to confirm views already held rather than bolster other possible, reasonable scenarios.

We will never sort out a path forward until we return to a universal set of facts — ones separate from opinions.

The Mountaineer is one small part of this path forward in one small corner of the world where we know salient facts — and report those facts on a daily basis.

Take the election, for instance. We’re not relying on opinions of one party or the other, cable news commentators or second-hand information to know how the 2020 election was conducted in Haywood.

We were there each step of the way. We watched decisions on election modifications made during a pandemic, observed election board members examine every mail-in vote to ensure the voter was indeed eligible and that the signature on the envelope matched the one on the original voter registration card.

We wrote a story on ballot request forms randomly sent out by political interest groups that led people to believe voters were receiving multiple ballots.

In fact, the request form was totally different from the ballot, and we quizzed officials about the steps taken to ensure only one official ballot per person was sent out and cast.

We watched early voting efforts where members of both major political parties were on hand at the sites overseeing the process, and followed day-of voting with the same fervor.

We reported on the state changes made by the N.C. Board of Elections and approved by the courts that allowed late-arriving mail-in ballots to be counted as long as they were post marked on or before Election Day — a decision made amid a worsening pandemic.

As the local newspaper, we only have first-hand knowledge of how things were handled in Haywood County, but it is reasonable to extrapolate that if all other counties complied with state rules, the election in North Carolina was certainly legitimate.

The same could likely be said for the thousands of other local newspapers that did what we did and tracked the 2020 election every step of the way. If there was fraud, it would have been caught at the local level where elections happen.

The pandemic-related changes in North Carolina, particularly those related to mail-in voting, were similar to ones allowed in other states where allegations of a voting fraud were raised. The charges were approved by courts and ultimately proven baseless by both Republican and Democrat-appointed judges in swing states where they were challenged.

When people become increasingly confused about which news or social media sources to trust, we have this advice.

Look to community news sources that practice old-school journalism where reporters ferret out all the facts they can and present them to readers, devoid of opinion. Use that as a basis to filter national news reports that may not be presented from a neutral position.

At The Mountaineer, our efforts are to find sources who know what is going on, allow them to explain the issues and then report the facts in the clearest way possible.

We often solicit information from those who have a stake in the issue and likewise, allow them to state their position. Our intention is for readers to have a set of facts that will allow them to reach their own conclusion.

For our democracy to get on the same page again, it’s necessary for all to know the basic facts. There is no better place to start, not only in Haywood, but across the nation, than with local news sources.

Editor’s note:

The one element of the 2020 election local newspapers weren’t likely able to cover was the voting machine and software issues raised by some.

While we reported on the new voting machine demonstrations in Haywood, the back-end workings were beyond our expertise. We followed the issue, however, including national news reports of possible lawsuits threatened against those maligning the systems unless retractions were made.

I personally heard two on-air retractions — one on Fox News and another on Newsmax.

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