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Opinion: Election Day is upon us; take it seriously
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Early voters arrive Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, to the City of Gainesville Downtown Building to cast their early ballot on the final day of early voting. - photo by Scott Rogers

One of the defining moments of a most eventful and dramatic year is almost upon us. Election Day is Tuesday.

It does not seem an overstatement to say that this particular call to the voting booth carries with it more trepidation and drama than any other national general election in recent history. Pandemic polling. Hacking hysteria. Partisan pandering. Convoluted conspiracies. Suppression semantics. Militia madness. Social media mania. All have combined to set the stage for a general Election Day like no other.

As a nation, we have talked ad nauseum about the candidates. It is time now for the culmination of a political process years in the making.

The slates of potential office holders aside, there are some things about the election itself that we have to accept:

Election Day will not go off without a hitch. It will not be perfect. Elections are never perfect. There are always glitches in machinery, questions about registrations, human errors, provisional ballots, misplaced votes, polling problems. Every single time. Always. This year will be no different, and the fact that those sorts of issues will arise should not be used to demean the efforts of thousands of election workers doing their very best to make the system work.

Most of the problems encountered on any election day are the result of human error. Nothing more sinister than that. Someone failed to do something they were supposed to do, or did it incorrectly. Didn’t get a name on the right precinct list. Didn’t observe a polling place rule. Didn’t set up a machine properly. Human mistakes made by a largely temporary work force recruited to work a handful of days in any given election cycle. They are mistakes, not part of any grand conspiracy to change the outcoming of balloting.

This year’s voting will be different. COVID-19 protocols will be in place. In Georgia, far more people will have voted in advance than are likely to vote on Tuesday, and still lines will be long in some areas and the process a slow one, especially given new voting machines that many have never used. Via either absentee ballots or early voting, an estimated 4 million Georgians will have cast their ballot before the traditional Election Day, roughly the same number who voted in total in the 2016 presidential election. The state could see a total of 6 million voters this year, a huge increase.

While we can vote in advance and many have, those advance votes are not counted ahead of Election Day. Results of Tuesday’s balloting will be slow coming in. We may not know for days who won some of the closer races. Don’t expect to go to bed Tuesday night assured of the outcome of anything. You can, however, look forward to the reality that come Wednesday morning that endless bombardment of political advertising that has dominated all media platforms will have slowed to a trickle, kept alive only by the presence of runoffs and potential legal challenges.

A reality of our electoral system is that the voters themselves have some obligations. A perceived lack of convenience is not the same as an intentional effort at voter suppression. Being asked to follow reasonable rules in order to vote does not constitute disenfranchisement of any particular group of potential voters. Inconvenience is not discrimination.

Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager

  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown

  • David George

  • Mandy Harris

  • Brent Hoffman

  • J.C. Smith

  • Tom Vivelo

As we approach this most unusual Election Day, it is important that we remember that elections have been an integral part of this country since its founding. They are a civic building block upon which the future of our democratic republic depends for survival, and one that is the envy of many other nations. It is not a process to be taken lightly, nor to be denigrated with spurious and insipid conspiracy theories and meritless complaints meant to undermine the legitimacy of outcomes.

Before subscribing to any rumor mongering related to Election Day, do your homework and make sure that there is credibility to whatever you may be hearing before repeating it as fact, regardless of the source. In an election drawing millions of ballots, is a sporadic problem with a single ballot or a handful of ballots sufficient cause to reject the outcome?

Respect the process. And the people who make it happen.

Those responsible for managing elections have a most difficult job. Election officials typically manage months of routine administrative duties that then escalate into election year madness every other year, before again returning to the routine. Poll workers are almost always temporary employees recruited and trained for the sole purpose of working one particular election cycle. Be patient with them all as they try to handle the myriad problems that arise with millions of voters hoping to cast their ballots in a single 12-hour period on Election Day.

For the most part, formal balloting will be completed by the end of the day Tuesday, though some few absentee ballots may still be delivered and counted after Election Day. At some point, winners will be declared, and, this year in particular, legal challenges of the outcomes in some races seem not only likely but probably unavoidable.

It may take some time before we know with certainty who will hold office next year and who will not, but the first step to making that decision comes on Tuesday. If you haven’t voted, we encourage you to do so, and to appreciate the opportunity you have to freely participate in the electoral process.