Democracy: We must hold it dear


Mrs. Jennifer Sayler, Social Studies Teacher

We are coming off of an election like none other.  Elections are decided by those who show up, and it makes me so proud that a record number of Americans, almost 160 million, decided to make a point to cast a vote for the next President.  This election has broken the glass ceiling by electing a first woman, and first woman of color, Kamala Harris, as Vice President.  This election was also conducted during a nation-wide pandemic, resulting in a record number, more than 100 million, of Americans voting early and a surged youth vote!

I have been an election judge since 2008 and the head election judge for Scott County since the 2016 Election.  In order to have trust in the process that takes care of our most precious right to vote, we must be informed.  Conducting elections has always been a reserved power, meaning it is left up to the states, and not the federal government.  This can be seen in the vast difference in election rules among states from voter ID laws, registration deadlines, absentee ballot deadlines, mail-in ballot eligibility, and even rules for when the counting ballots can begin. States do not just make up the rules as they go;  they are pre-determined election rules passed by state legislatures. 

It may be more tempting for some to be suspicious of this election because it is different;  it is normal to “fear what is different.”  It may not feel “normal” to see one candidate winning, then going to bed with the other candidate winning, only to wake up the next morning with yet another swing in who is ahead.   And, even when we are warned this could be the case, as news outlets predicted we would not know the results of this election for days because of the number of early votes, it was still hard to be patient while every vote was counted.  But, I would hope we can all agree that in a free and fair election “by the people,” every legally cast vote must be counted. 

I have participated in the counting of ballots by hand before.  It is a very transparent process.  Every election judge declares his/her party.  Any time a completed ballot is being touched, counted, or transferred, there must be two judges – of opposing parties – involved in the transaction. The counting done by hand in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona were normal civilian election judges, just like myself, and members of both parties doing their civic duty.  The Georgia Secretary of State, Raffensperger, is a Republican.  Even he acknowledged during a press conference on November 6, “I am a Republican, it’s pretty obvious.  In general, we are people who have partisan beliefs, but the job of election directors is to follow the law and assure that every legal vote is counted.”   He went on to praise the 159 county election officials who were there doing their civic duty of protecting democracy.  

Though we witnessed a tight race in many states and a pendulum swing of who was ahead, what was taking place was not fraud.  What we witnessed was states abiding by their own pre-determined election rules, just like always;  we just never noticed because we’ve never voted during a pandemic forcing record numbers of absentee mail-in ballots and early voting. While most states make Election Day the deadline to receive mail-in ballots, 22 states – Republican and Democrat majority states alike – allow ballots to come in after Election Day.  Again, nothing new, just never noticed.  To make matters worse, many states had passed rules that early and mail-in ballots could not begin to be counted until after the polls closed on election day.  With millions of ballots to be counted, this was naturally going to take a long time, even with election judges counting all through the night.  When the President and his supporters saw a win in sight, it was well before many of the early votes were even counted.  In the end, Trump won the election day vote in many states, while Biden won the early voting.  This cannot be surprising because that is what the Democratic party encouraged, and clearly what Trump discouraged.

Emotions were high in this election.  This is true on both sides of the aisle.  It is understandable to be deeply and personally invested in the results, with high hopes.  However, I caution against allowing those emotions to cloud the truth and stand in the way of the democratic process that works in the United States.  Republican Chris Christie called out the President for “inflaming without informing.”  In order for the courts to get involved in an election, one must earn “standing.”  That means the party making the claim must demonstrate sufficient evidence to support fraud. 

There have been really tense and close elections before.  All of them have ended in respect for our electoral process, even when it feels unfair, and a concession speech.  This Election will sure be one to remember, and my greatest hope is that it will end in a peaceful transition of power.  Our democracy depends upon it;  never have we wavered away from this promise.