No matter who we are: White, Black or brown; no matter where we live: Urban, suburban rural; no matter whether we vote by mail or in person on Nov. 3; every voter wants the same kind of treatment in an election. We want to know that our vote will be counted — quickly, accurately, and fairly recorded. We want to know that the Post Office will be able to deliver our mail-in ballots quickly to the proper office.
We want to know that election officials will be able to count mail-in ballots calmly and efficiently so that we can have accurate reporting of results available quickly. Finally, we want to know that the election will be held peacefully, without coercion or threats at the polling places or disruptive demonstrations outside the places where votes will be counted.
But there are many reasons to doubt that the very contentious election of 2020 will be carried out as fairly and calmly as we Americans want and deserve. Voters attending political rallies in North Carolina and Pennsylvania have been encouraged to vote twice — by mail and in person. This, of course, can only result in legal problems for those who try it, and in massive confusion which will be manipulated into evidence of voter fraud to be used to stop the counting of mail-in ballots. In some states, including Pennsylvania, legislators have seriously explored their ability to send to the Electoral College a slate of Electors who do not reflect the results of the vote. We have already seen this: after voting in the Bush-Gore election, there were court cases and protests at offices where votes were being counted to stop the counting of contested ballots. Former presidential adviser, Roger Stone has even gone so far as to suggest that military force should be used to stop your vote from being counted.
These tactics, aimed disenfranchising us all, are the work of weak and ineffectual leaders who are afraid of losing their positions of power. These are not the tactics of a free and fair society.
We Americans want and deserve something better, especially in a dangerous time, when long lines and close proximity can spread the deadly COVID-19 virus. We want to vote without harassment or unnecessary delay. We deserve the security of secret ballots the knowledge that they will be counted. And we want to be confident that our leaders are working for the benefit of us all, of every skin color, every religion (or no religion) and in every location.
Of course, I want the candidate I favor to win. All voters want the candidate for whom they voted to win. But more importantly, we Americans want our nation to maintain our standards of freedom and justice. We want our leaders to work on behalf of us all, not just partisan supporters or chosen special interests making large campaign contributions. We want to know that all our voices are being heard and all our votes are being counted.
For many years, people in other countries have looked to the United States of America as a model for free and fair elections. Advisers from the United States have gone to other nations to help establish more open and honest electoral systems. Our elections have been a model for a free world.
Recently I spoke with a person who has come to the United States from Kenya and is proudly working toward becoming an American citizen. But as we talked about the possibility of lawsuits and uncounted ballots, she commented that this was the kind of activity she expected to see in Africa, but not here in the United States.
We don’t expect to see it either. We must assure that every vote will be counted, that the results of the election will be respected, and that there will be a peaceful transition of power if the incumbent president is defeated. That is the American way.
Contact your state and national representatives to let them know that you want the mail-in ballots to be opened and counted early so that the count can go quickly, smoothly, and accurately. And every vote must be counted.
Doug Orbaker is a retired Presbyterian minister.