Poll workers do not despise poll watchers. They educate them.

The dense thicket of campaign signs that appear outside the West Gray One Stop Center and other polling places around Harris County –
782
as a whole — are unsightly at first sight, and yet, in a way, they are as beautiful as democracy itself. They represent persuasion rather than coercion, hope rather than resignation, participation rather than passivity. They represent the admirable disorder of democracy.

Thankfully, the signs last about as long as mushrooms last after a spring rain, but while they’re up, they’re a reminder of the good work that goes on at polling stations, where patriotic fellow citizens help make the mess manageable. .

Poll workers, mostly older Americans, are the people who greet you at the table set up in the neighborhood public library, church, or elementary school. They are the ones who verify your name, address and photo ID before handing you a ballot, those who patiently answer questions about voting machines or voting procedures, alleviating any concerns about the voting correctly. They hand you an “I voted!” sticker when you walk through the door. Their work is crucial. Without them, the system collapses.

They are the unsung heroes of democracy, especially in the current climate where their honest work has somehow become politicized, their lowly roles twisted into something nefarious, with accusations of conspiracy sometimes accompanied by physical threats. Not surprising
some have given up.

This election season, the dedicated poll workers who remain are being groomed for another staple of American democracy that can make their lives more difficult: poll watchers, they’re called – registered voters appointed by political parties, candidates or citizens’ groups in order to monitor the process to ensure that there are no irregularities.

No problem with that. Official poll watchers have been around since we started counting ballots. Their goal is to promote fairness and transparency simply by being there. Except that after the 2020 election, thousands of new poll watchers were recruited by groups promoting the big lie of widespread voter fraud. When you’re a hammer, things feel like a nail. So people driven by their steadfast belief that the White House was stolen from former President Donald Trump might be inclined to find a fraud when it’s not there.

Ensuring voters and poll workers are aware they are being watched and assuming shenanigans are unfolding before their eagle eyes, they will be ready to intervene at the slightest perception of impropriety. Disruption is a real possibility. Just like bullying.

So far, we are cautiously relieved to report that Harris County is experiencing no such issues.

As the county approached 280,000 in-person voters Friday afternoon, there were no reports of poll watchers going berserk. All 56 observers “nominated by a candidate or political party, (who) have registered since early voting began,” according to the Harris County Election Administration Office, followed the rules.

The biggest complaint appears to be the length of the ballot, which the elections office confirmed “is the longest in the country”.

The poll watchers and also the monitors sent to Harris County by the state seem for the most part to fulfill their watchdog role in good faith, and even better, those who run the polls tell us that they take advantage to educate their fellow citizens on the voting process in the hope of restoring confidence in him. All the more reason to salute these dedicated Americans.

Electoral judge Lauren Summerville, a Kingwood resident who has worked on elections in the Greenspoint area since 2018, told us she had already met with a poll watcher and a poll supervisor, both of whom came away better informed about the process. of voting.

The state-sponsored observer, for example, was a Texas Department of Transportation employee who gave ‘rave reviews’ of the Summerville polling station and told him everything he had learned from his visit. . “He was adorable,” Summerville told us. The poll watcher who showed up was, she said, “very low-key and just a bit curious about the process.”

This is not to downplay what Summerville still viewed as a scaremongering tactic on the part of the state, but, she said, to reassure voters that on the ground, when they present to vote, the electoral officers are ready to assist them throughout this process with competence and professionalism. Her main goal, she says, is to demystify the process for voters who might be inclined to see the slightest glitch as a sign that their vote isn’t counted. She is a Democrat; his alternate is a Republican. The workers are divided, 50-50.

So far, Summerville said, this election has gone more smoothly than some in the past at its location.

We hope it will stay that way. And we are encouraged by similar reports in other states, including that of Republican Clerk Carly Koppes in Weld County, Colorado, who
says NPR
his interactions with the watchers were also educational: “I literally had a watcher get down on one knee and follow my sons just so I could prove to them that this is a network closed, that it is not connected to the Internet,” she said. said.

Elsewhere, however, there have been problems.

In a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona a few days ago, voters at a drop box were filmed, photographed and followed by car out of a parking lot. In Mesa, two armed men in tactical gear were watching a drop box. The two cases were among six potential complaints of voter intimidation that the Arizona secretary of state referred to law enforcement last Monday.

And of course bullying and worse have happened throughout history. For decades, pollwatchers in the Deep South — invariably Democrats at the time — made sure that would-be black voters would think again before they dared show up at a polling place. Mexican-American voters in South Texas knew they had to vote the right way. Or else.

The Arizona bullies are believed to be affiliated with two groups, Clean Elections USA and
true the vote, a Houston-based organization that has been fooling the gullible for years about rampant voter fraud. “Our electoral processes are vulnerable from start to finish – and those vulnerabilities are exploited by groups that hijack our elections to serve their own ends, the group claims on its website, while raising millions without ever backing up its claim.

Meanwhile, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon – recently sentenced to four months in prison on two counts of contempt of Congress – warned election officials. “We’re going to be there and enforce those rules, and we’ll challenge any vote, any ballot, and you’re going to have to live with it,” he said on a recent episode of his podcast.

It’s easy to see how guys with guns near the polls would intimidate a first-time voter or a new citizen with limited English proficiency or really anyone who immediately avoided the hassle.

Infamously, in New Jersey in 1981, the Republican National Committee organized a “ballot security task force” of armed and off-duty police ostensibly deployed to prevent voter fraud in a tight race. for governor between Democrat Jim Florio and Republican Tom Kean. Showing up at polling stations in heavily Democratic, majority-minority urban areas, the group sent letters warning voters of penalties for voter fraud. On Election Day, bullies posted signs warning that areas were ‘patrolled by the Ballot Security Task Force’ and offered $1,000 rewards for tips leading to arrests and convictions for electoral fraud.

Kean, the Republican, won and became a popular two-term governor. The New Jersey Democratic State Committee filed a lawsuit after Election Day alleging intimidation of black and Hispanic voters, but the lawsuit did not affect the election results. The case was settled in 1982 with a consent decree that restricted the RNC’s ballot monitoring activities. The decree expired in
2017.

This year, the RNC conducted more than
5,000 training sessions
across the country, so that poll watchers know how to monitor the vote and file complaints. The Texas Secretary of State proposes
similar training.

We hope that more Americans will realize, through their direct observation, that elections in the United States are safe, and remember that, as Summerville says, “the people who stand on the front lines to help you to vote are your neighbours”.

Now that early voting is in full swing, we urge Harris County residents to ignore any isolated incidents of disruptive or intimidating bystanders. Treat them like the signs you walk past inside. Don’t be intimidated.

Trust the poll workers, dedicated men and women at your disposal to answer all your questions, answer all your concerns. And thank them for their service, knowing that they too are subject to threats and intimidation.

Like these poll workers, you have a job to do. It is to proudly exercise your right, your privilege, in a nation of, by and for the people.

About Julius Southworth

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