On election night when the ticker tape streams along the bottom of the television screen declaring winners and losers, broadcasters pile accolades on winners and their well-run campaigns while second guessing the losing strategies of those who ended the night in defeat.
Little is mentioned, if anything, about how the numbers are derived and tallied, unless of course vote tallies are slow in coming.
Few watching doubt the accuracy of the vote count flashing before them and fewer still consider how it occurs. Americans just take it for granted that the numbers will appear.
As chief election officer of a state I often tell voters the process is simply magic. Of course you might feel differently if you are from Florida or Minnesota. There the election process has been examined under a microscope along with bright lights with added unlimited resources. Resources which would have been better spent before the election and not afterwards. Those of us heavily involved in the election process often say, “If you think a good election costs a lot, wait until you pay for a bad one.”
I believe that the magic behind the elections in my state are the general registrars, electoral board members, election officials, local and state, who work long hours ensuring the integrity of the election. Election officials who, not only on election day, but the months leading up to it as well are working to prevent voter fraud, protecting voters privacy, ensuring the security of voting equipment as well as the safety of those coming to the polls. All this while living up to the oath which we all take to uphold the election laws enacted by our Commonwealth, laws which fill up—pages of the code book.
We do this with limited resources, under constant threats of lawsuit, FOIA requests, questionnaires from well meaning advocacy groups or interested political parties –all under deadlines set by Congress, State legislatures, and local governments.
A career in elections is not for the faint of heart or for those who expect to work 9 to 5 and have weekends and holidays off.
I believe that those in the election community are the referees who keep campaigns, candidates, interest groups, and advocacy groups playing by the rules. That these individuals who work so hard to ensure that winners won fair and square in every election from school board to U.S. President, are seldom adequately compensated or even acknowledged.
I believe that their hard work, generally taken for granted by voters, plays a vital role in America’s steadfast belief in democracy and that the vote tallies are true and accurate.
It is virtually impossible to explain to an outsider how much work and dedication it takes to conduct a fair election so I just say, “its magic.”
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