Guest Essays, Opinion

Guest essay: No doubt about election integrity once you’ve seen the process up close

by Randy Vealey

I sensed what was coming a half-century ago. As an 18-year-old idealist in the closing weeks of the McGovern campaign in western Massachusetts, I believed we could change hearts and minds, if not the world, in a fair election.

That’s despite the dirty tricks of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) in fall 1972 and the Watergate break-in earlier that summer. Even then, everyone knew nothing was fair in politics, but Election Day was different.

What I guess changed my glass-half-full attitude to glass-half-empty  was being ushered into a cocktail party in an affluent enclave in the community we were canvassing (going door-to-door). Armed with brochures, buttons, stickers and answers to mobilize voters, if not change minds, we never doubted the democratic process many of us were participating in for the first time.

Once inside that swanky soiree I realized I was “entertainment” — a jester — for the hosts’ derision of the McGovern campaign or anyone who questioned war or injustice.

In March 2020, I retired from journalism for good reasons. I was 66, but more importantly, I was increasingly wary of not only the nasty campaigning, but aspersions already being made about the upcoming election.

Then the pandemic came and shook the world, yet it did little to mitigate the vile lies that culminated in the insurrection at our nation’s Capitol.

After that, I vowed to reenter the arena of our elections. Not as any campaign worker or, heaven forbid, a candidate, but as a poll worker.

I started by working the primary election day (but not the early voting period). That was an eye-opener in itself:  starting work at 5:30 a.m. and not getting home until 8:30 p.m. that night.

I did work the 10-day early-voting period last fall and the general election, which was a grind. Call it sensory overload — something akin to what grocery clerks experience when a blizzard is forecast, but for days on end.

But what was most difficult to endure were the parting comments from some voters disparaging one party or another or invoking falsehoods about past election results. None of which any poll worker is allowed, or should, respond to and rightfully so.

To say that false claims about our elections’ integrity have stoked malice and fear — and in some instances threats or actual violence — is no exaggeration.

 I can attest the process behind our elections — starting with the rules, protocols and equipment that safeguard casting and counting ballots — reinforce anyone’s measure of fairness and accuracy.

The men and women who oversee our elections, from the county clerks and state election officials to the myriad poll workers of both major parties, are above reproach.

There was hardly a hiccup from the equipment used by thousands of voters in Monongalia County while selecting their candidates and casting paper ballots into a machine that physically preserves them while electronically tabulating them.

I was impressed by   the Monongalia County clerk’s office’s professionalism and desire to get it right as it conducted our primary and general elections in 2022.

Some might say, “Well, that was here in Monongalia County, not there in Maricopa or Fulton counties” (Arizona and Georgia, respectively). I trust the men and women behind elections nationwide are no different than those I worked beside — Republicans and Democrats — last year. They are just as American as you or me.

The politics of some campaigns preceding our elections leave a lot to be desired ethically, morally and even legally. However, those who would stir up fear, heighten tensions and stoke hatred after losing an election by claiming, without proof, it was rigged are anything but patriotic.

Join me in 2024 and sign up to be a poll worker. You’ll see so much that’s good about our elections.

Randy Vealey is a retired journalist and former opinion editor for The Dominion Post who lives in Morgantown.