Election workers strive to count each vote


I’ve been in and around politics for a long time. Certainly there have been times, in close-fought races, when candidates might ask for a recount. But once the precinct workers and town and city clerks and secretaries of state have checked and re-checked and certified, we consider the matter settled. We accept and abide by the results.

Elections are at the core of the American system: they are literally how we Americans decide where we’re going to head as a nation. The elections process is at the center of who we are.

Voting – and ensuring that the vote is fair and transparent – is how the institutions that represent us function. When the House of Representatives is deciding on policy, it votes. When the Supreme Court needs to decide a case, it votes. When state legislatures and city councils have to set a budget or decide on taxes, they vote. Those votes are public, and they’re tallied, and that’s how we have confidence that the issue was decided fairly.

When elections are done, we commit to a peaceful transfer of power to the winners. We hand power to them without taking up arms and without casting doubt on the legitimacy of their win. That’s been part and parcel of who we are for centuries, and it’s one of the features of our system that has made the US a beacon to others.

There is no question the fall elections will be difficult to administer. If nothing else, the pandemic ensures that. We’re accustomed to knowing election results by the end of the night, but this year a lot of votes will come in later, and it’s expected that days or even weeks could go by before we know the winner.

This will not be because voter fraud is taking place; as FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress, there’s very little evidence that voter fraud exists. Instead, it will be because the hard-working women and men who administer our elections at the local level will be doing their level best to ensure that every eligible voter’s ballot gets counted.

How do we ensure the election results are accepted as legitimate? These are tough questions for our democracy,

but I do know one thing: Every state and local election official has to do their best to ensure that everyone who is entitled to vote can cast a ballot, and that those ballots are counted as transparently as possible.

Lee Hamilton is a senior adviser for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

Lee Hamilton is a senior adviser for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government; a Distinguished Scholar at the IU Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies; and a Professor of Practice at the IU O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

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