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Opinion: Officials must do whatever they can to get November election done right
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Gainesville IV voting precinct at the Brenau University Downtown Center is set up Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. - photo by Scott Rogers

In every horror movie, there is a point of palpable, impending doom of which the audience is keenly aware. The upcoming General Election is beginning to feel like the scene in which the pretty coed goes into the dark basement to see what made an unexplained noise as the background music turns ominous.

Looking ahead to November, it is easy to envision a script that makes the hanging chads of 2000 look like a comedy.

As a nation, we cannot let that happen if our democratic republic is to survive unscathed.

The president has spared no opportunity to sow seeds of doubt about the upcoming vote, continuously espousing a distrust of mail-in balloting that has now escalated with postal service pronouncements that it may not be able to meet demands of an electoral process depending on some votes being delivered through the mail.

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

President Trump has gone so far as to float the idea of delaying the election to another time due to the reliance on mail-in voting as an alternative to voting in person during the national pandemic.

"With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???" the president tweeted last month.

Of course, the fact the postal service has decided that now is the perfect time to remove hundreds of automated mail sorting machines adds to the intrigue over mailed ballots, timing and potential election-related problems.

On the other side of the political aisle, progressives have for months protested what they see as intentional, systemic efforts at voter suppression, meant to disenfranchise minorities while giving unjust political power to others.

Those who see intentional bias against certain potential voters in every logistical decision have made it clear they are poised and financed to challenge the process come November, and have organized to do so.

The rancor with which both sides are approaching Election Day 2020 has led to concerns over whether the results of the Nov. 3 voting are likely to be known in a timely manner, and even if they are, whether they will be accepted by candidates on both sides of the political fence.

The sense of foreboding that hangs like a dark shadow over the upcoming election process brings with it the potential of a constitutional crisis in this country the likes of which most of us would associate with third-world nations instead of the most influential country in the world.

Between mail-in ballots, international hackers, unproven technologies, unrealistic expectations and an unrelenting pandemic, the potential for catastrophe is incredibly high.

Even though time is short, we don’t believe it has to be that way, though avoiding a disaster is going to take something we haven’t seen much of lately – coordination and cooperation between both political parties at all levels of government.

As a nation we have dealt with national disasters, wars, economic collapse, social injustice and political division. Working together, we can hold an election in which the people have confidence. But those now in elective office have to make it happen.

Holding elections is the responsibility of state and local governments, not the federal government. That said, the president and members of the Congress need to commit to providing support to state and local governments to assure a fair election is held, rather than fighting and complaining about all the reasons the outcomes are not to be trusted. We’ve got two months to fix any problems that have been identified.

The same is true for state governments across the nation. They have to work with local governments within their states to eliminate as many roadblocks as possible before Election Day.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has said it is likely the state’s General Assembly will reconvene in a special session to address some vague and mysterious issues. If he really wants to call lawmakers back to the Capitol, make it a session focused solely on meeting the needs of local election officials and do it quickly.

The ultimate responsibility for holding elections falls to local county officials who are tasked with establishing polling places, recruiting and training manpower to staff them, making sure the voting process is secure, and verifying the legitimacy of the votes that are cast.

Local governments have to provide those officials with the needed resources to do the job, and creative efforts may be required to make sure staffing is sufficient in times of a national health crisis. Recruit and train volunteers, solicit help from civic groups, draft technology experts from industry, bring in the Boy Scouts or the National Guard – whatever it takes to overcome the challenges that were made obvious in the primary elections earlier this year.

As a nation we have proven we can do incredible things when faced with crisis situations. The upcoming election qualifies. We need to bring that commitment and energy to addressing the general election, and we need to do it right now, at every level of government.

Every election supervisor, county commissioner, state legislator, governor and congressman needs to ask “What can I do to help,” and then make it happen.

It is not overstating the fact to suggest that if the general election results in the sort of chaos that some expect, and others seem to desire, it could create a permanent and irreparable crack in the foundation of our system of government.

Sometimes, despite the ominous music, the girl goes into the dark basement, flips on a light, and nothing bad happens. That’s a plot twist we all could live with come November.