After an election that buried us in media coverage for nearly two years, we breathed a sigh of relief when November 7, 2018, arrived. The election was over, and all that was left to do was to announce the winners. But of course, it wasn’t over; it just moved into the final phase of counting the ballots. And that is not as simple as you might expect.
In today’s highly-charged political arena, even counting the ballots can be a contentious struggle. Misplaced bundles of (valid?) ballots suddenly appear days after the election, and charges of improper voting procedures are made which cloud the result. There are even cases where the vote tally exceeds the total population of the voting district, which is doubly ludicrous when the voter turnout is less than 60%. Lawsuits may be filed and courts must then become the final arbiter that picks the winner.
In a republic, arguably the most important action taken by a citizen is casting their ballot in the election of federal officials. So when we witness an election ending in a badly-managed vote count that appears to be the result of either the incompetence or dishonesty of election officials, our confidence in government is shaken. Why go through that intense, lengthy and costly election campaign if it is to end in a dogfight over claims of impropriety in voting procedures and in the count? And will the ultimate losers honor the final decision and accept the defeat with dignity?
How did this happen? To use a folksy analogy, we have allowed the foxes to take over the henhouse. We put highly partisan officials in charge of the election processes, and the temptation to bend the rules, even resort to malfeasance, is simply too great for some of them to resist. The allure of political power triumphs over human decency.
We are confronted with a piercing question: Do we have the insight and will to take
charge of the political situation and fix it? Can we end this pattern of strong partisanship
that is eating away at the foundations of the republic?