So I needed a day to breathe.
Yesterday was . . . hard. I was exhausted. Disappointed. Kinda broken. I entertained various notions throughout the day. Living a quiet life off-the-grid somewhere very remote. Like maybe the Shetland Islands. Never talking to anyone. At all. Ever. Taking a long (and possibly permanent) hiatus from blogging. Going to bed and just staying there.
Which is ultimately what I did: I napped. And after a nap - when I woke to better news from Michigan - I felt a bit brighter. But seeing footage of people with guns trying to crash into absentee ballot counting locations on the east side of the state . . . well, it just about broke me again. Because the people in there counting? They're just like me: official Michigan election inspectors (that's what we call poll workers here) who were assigned to the Absent Ballot Counting Board for this election.
I feel so sad that people have been turned against the very election system itself. Because . . . it's a system that is designed to work! When I went through the training required to become a Michigan election inspector, I came away in awe -- of the Fort-Knox-like system that has been designed around the entire voting experience. Having seen what happens from the inside, I TRUST the system more than ever. And . . . I trust that the system will hold up against any challenges.
Here in Michigan (and I know this will be the case in each state), there are voting safeguards in place to MAKE SURE each person can ONLY vote once. To MAKE SURE that ONLY people registered in a given precinct can vote in that precinct. To MAKE SURE absent ballots are tabulated accurately. To MAKE SURE there is balanced party representation in each polling place and in the Absent Ballot Counting Board -- and to MAKE SURE that an election official representative from each party is present at EVERY step of the process. It's all balanced. It's as close to non-partisan as you can get! Before beginning our duties we take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Michigan. We are sequestered. We sign our names over and over and over again on documents and results and checklists. There are seals and locks and safeguards. It is an amazing system. Trust it.
And . . . I saw it work on Tuesday! Not because people were trying to "cheat" -- because I don't believe they were doing that in any way -- but because voters were in the wrong precinct, or had received an absentee ballot but never submitted it, or filled in too many bubbles on their ballot (we still use paper ballots in Michigan, although we have tabulators in each precinct for the counting). And there are protocols in place for EVERY situation!
And at the end of the night when the polls close, election inspectors don't just pack up and go home. Not until EVERY ballot is accounted for (voted and unvoted) with reports (many reports) that require balancing and totals and signatures. Not until every piece of voting equipment or report or piece of paper is packed securely away - and under lock and seal - to be delivered to the clerk's office by a team consisting of representatives from both political parties. . . together. Not until the entire precinct is packed up again and cleared.
It's a big job.
(Fort Knox, I'm telling you.)
And it's the same way in the Absent Ballot Counting Board. On Monday, I worked all day to help process absentee ballots for my city. Here in Michigan, we were not able to begin processing the absentee ballots until the day before the election. ("Processing" means . . . opening the envelopes and assuring that the ballot numbers inside match the assigned ballot number on the envelopes.) By getting a one-day head start on the processing, the Absent Ballot Counting Board could then begin tabulating ballots right away on election day -- without also needing to process them. My city, alone, received approximately 20,000 absentee ballots! That's a whole lot of opening envelopes. (So when you wonder why it takes so long to get the results? That's why.)
Anyway. My work on Monday also began with the oath, and I was sequestered. We worked in teams of two -- and, as you can probably guess, each team comprised one Democrat and one Republican. We had to do everything together - including bathroom breaks! It is very official and very bi-partisan . . . and VERY congenial. Because when it comes down to it, all election inspectors want the same thing: a fair election process where every legitimate voter CAN VOTE safely and securely.
I wish more people in this country understood how the system works -- and how hard the people working behind the scenes are committed to and CARE about fairness and security and transparency!
Trust the system.
And be patient.
I also wanted to mention that I worked in a primarily "red" precinct on Tuesday. It turned out to be far less busy than we expected, and especially later in the day. (This is because we had so many absentee ballots submitted in Michigan.) (I could have knit, in fact, but I didn't have my knitting. . . ) Still, we had a big morning crush and a steady stream of voters for most of the day. I am happy to report a very civil day -- everyone (voters and workers alike) were kind, considerate, and patient. There was one kind of grumpy man (he was in the wrong precinct), but even he was mollified quickly. We had good questions from first-time and not-in-a-long-time voters. It was an excellent experience - no intimidation, no rudeness, no disruptions. And most everyone wore masks (although there were a LOT of under-the-nose mask wearers. . . ). I felt safe and supported all day.