Now that American’s Election Day is behind us, I would like to share some insights about the process. As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter, I am spending a couple of months working full time (including 16.5 hours on Election Day!) for the Election Division of the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office. This has been a fascinating year to have an inside look at the process that determines our national, state, and local leadership.
The quiet heroes of any democratic government are full-time election professionals. They ensure the integrity of the process for all voters, despite sometimes feeling intense political pressures from elected officials and candidates. Whatever their personal voting preferences, they bring a non-partisan approach to their job. Despite the massive amount of media coverage of this year’s voting process, I have not heard of a single instance where an election professional has been accused of biasing the process.
They spend the quiet months between elections ensuring the complicated voting infrastructure is in place. As any large election gets closer, they add temporary staff like me. Before the election, my team focused on registering as many eligible voters as possible, then mailing them ballots. (Utah is primarily a mail-in voting state so all registered voters are mailed ballots.) I am proud of my colleagues who answered up to 100 calls a day, showing respect for each voter, even though some voters expressed very strong opinions about the election.
As the election approached, the emphasis was on processing ballots that were sent back. Happily in Utah, we are able to process mail-in ballots as soon as we receive them. For the two weeks after the election, we are tabulating the last of the mail-in ballots that arrived on time. We also are reviewing the provisional ballots of those who registered on Election Day.
A separate team managed the in-person voting centers around the county, with their electronic tabulation of votes. This included having pairs of sheriff’s deputies retrieving the voting equipment and paper ballots from each location.
We now know the outcome of most races around the United States. The gist of democracy is that candidates robustly share their competing visions for the future during the campaign, then work together on solutions until the next election. With the many challenges facing our nation, many of which also impact our friends around the world, let us hope we can unite in 2021 to build a brighter future together.