Standard disclaimer: See sidebar. These are my views alone, not those of my employer, for whom I am in no way authorized to speak. I do not identify them, but I know what the Internet can do.
Dear Mr. Trump:
You insult me, sir.
You insult me so deeply that if this were the eighteenth century I would demand satisfaction, at dawn, in the location of your choosing (I hear Weehawken is nice), with pistols. Consider this your slap across the cheek.
I am an election worker. We are legion: a hundred thousand unsung defenders of democracy. We work long hours across the country to make sure that the wheels of the peaceful exchange of governmental power turn in a proper manner. When you state that the election is “rigged,” you insult the honor of each and every one of us. You accuse us not merely of dereliction of duty, but of being criminals.
You act as though elections just happen, as though a giant red, white, and blue unicorn scarfed down an American flag and a pocket Constitution and pooped out ballot boxes and voting booths. And that the “liberal media” is force-feeding it “I’m With Her” buttons.
It doesn’t work that way. Campaigns and candidates don’t run elections; state and county officials and their staffs do. And those staffs take their work very seriously.
There are the people who spend hours upon hours testing election machines to make sure that the machines record votes properly. There are the men and women who work for days upon days processing voter registration forms, or who staff the phones to politely and warmly answer questions that the occasionally quite irate voters ask. There are the guys who show up early to set up the voting machines during the early voting period.
And then we have absentee ballots. There are the guys who make the run to the post office so we don’t have to wait until the USPS delivers the ballots to start working with them. In my neck of the woods, the ballots all have a strip that is supposed to stay in place until the ballot is returned. Those strips have to be removed by hand: a laborious, tedious and grimy undertaking. There are millions of ballots mailed across the state. There are those who risk their hearing running the machines that process the ballots, and those who risk their eyesight staring at screens verifying signatures.
There are people who extract the ballots from their envelopes, making sure that they do not see the name of the voter on the outside of the envelope as they do so. The ballots are then passed along to still more people for counting, people who haven’t the faintest clue in the world who the voter is. Everything is designed to protect the confidentiality of the ballot.
There are people who man the warehouse, who see that all the materials needed show up at the polls. And there are all the volunteer poll workers; and too, the people who coordinate those volunteers. Those who stay very late on election night to make sure everything comes in properly and that all the voting materials are all accounted for.
There are the men and women who spend many, many hours verifying provisional ballots. Contrary to the myth put about by some disappointed voters in the primaries, provisional ballots are not thrown away. They are investigated and counted.
That scenario you keep bringing up about people voting ten times? It can’t happen. After the first time, your imaginary election criminal would have to cast a provisional ballot, and their deception would be discovered. Those extra ballots would be invalidated. Not thrown out; nothing is thrown out. Accountability is our watchword.
An election is a massive undertaking. These and so many other tasks of all levels of complexity go on behind the scenes, and all most people know is that they walk in to the polls, go into a voting booth and come out five minutes later having cast a ballot. There is even someone who is in charge of ordering the “I Voted!” stickers.
The office where I work is a microcosm of America: we are all races, all faiths, a wide range of ages, every sexual orientation and gender identity. We have political beliefs of all stripes, none of which effect the diligence with which we perform our duties. We are what America could be if the country just got its act together. We deserve your respect.
Instead of honoring the work we do, though, you spit on it. You are not the first: I had more than one testy interaction on Facebook with Bernie Sanders supporters after the primary. But they were ignorant, in most cases; whereas if you do not know the way that elections actually work, you have people to tell you.
And so, consider this your challenge. Name your place. Or you could simply stop proclaiming the election is rigged, and apologize to us.
A great and noble commentary from someone who makes me proud.
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