Next week is the 2020 Presidential general election.
On Tuesday, election workers will begin the arduous process of tabulating hundreds of thousands of ballots in San Joaquin County, and we will very soon find out who our elected officials will be.
Only it won’t happen instantly.
In some instances, it may take weeks before we know who those elected officials will be.
And while there will be plenty of people trying to tell you that this is evidence of something untoward taking place – of widespread corruption – know that it’s actually evidence that the system is working the way that it’s supposed to.
It’s evidence that everyone’s vote is being counted.
I was floored two years ago when I saw a Congressional candidate that failed to make the November ballot peddling a conspiracy that the outcome of the race – which took an extended period of time to finalize because of the number of mail ballots that were tabulated in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties – was evidence that democracy was being thwarted and the will of the people was being hijacked by shadowy forces.
The irony? The very fact that that this candidate – who is currently a major party candidate for the United States House of Representatives on the November ballot – was peddling this conspiracy theory was a real-life example of somebody trying to thwart democracy and usurp what was clearly the will of the people.
Don’t fall for it, everybody.
There is a huge effort underway right now to erode trust in our electoral process, and I can’t think of anything more un-American than attempting to dissuade people from exercising their constitutional right or creating the sense that there is no integrity in the system.
For example, there was an issue when ballots were first issued where certain races were not included in areas where they should have been, and a chorus of “this is corruption” started before people could ever open the envelope to see if they were impacted.
Corruption? Do people understand exactly how intricate this election is and the number of moving parts that a relatively sparse staff at the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Office have to manage?
By California law, elected officials must now be chosen by the people that they represent – meaning that “at large” offices are no longer allowed to appear on the ballot. Due to the interpretation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, district elections that were previously uncommon have now become the norm for every single race where district lines are drawn.
That means city councils. That means school boards. That means college boards. That means irrigation district boards. That means boards of supervisors.
Depending on where you live, it’s entirely possible that the person across the street from you could have a completely different ballot than yours.
That means that it’s likely that there are more than 100 unique ballots circulating right now in San Joaquin County, and because of the pandemic each of those ballots needed to be delivered to every single home in the county.
Considering that this is the first Presidential election since this change was incorporated, I would say that a few kinks were to be expected and those that are responsible for ensuring that elections remain free and fair were fortunately able to correct those mistakes with enough time to deliver the correct ballots to voters.
The same could be said for those that are now being notified that their ballots will not be accepted as submitted right now because the signature on the envelope does not match the signature that the registrar has on file.
This isn’t corruption. This isn’t a chance to stifle the vote. It’s not fraud. In fact, it’s actually the opposite of fraud – it’s an election official that notices that something isn’t quite right giving the voter a chance to ensure that their vote is counted.
Is it convenient? No. Not at all. Going down to vote in person during a pandemic or drive to Stockton to clear up the mess is not something that many of us will choose to do for a recreational activity. And considering that there are a great number of voters that will be voting by mail for the first time this year, and knowing that signatures naturally change over time, I’m willing to bet that this will affect quite a few people.
But what is the alternative? Just accepting every ballot even when the signature doesn’t match? That would lead to the widespread “fraud” that certain elected officials with distinctive hairstyles are currently griping about and this very scenario seeks to avoid.
And let us just nip the “fraud” thing right now – it isn’t an issue. Because of district balloting, it would be almost impossible to fix a specific race without being detected, and while there are outliers and examples that are commonly used to bolster such an argument, they are statistically insignificant. Attempting to rig ballots is a low upside proposition with tremendous downside – a felony – and letting people continue to perpetuate this myth harms democracy.
Because it’s a mail-dominated election, it’s going to take some time to count all of the votes. It’s not a secret that Republicans tend to vote in person and Democrats tend to vote by mail, so it’s entirely possible that candidates with leads will see them disappear as the votes are counted. This is not fraud.
If you think this is an example of fraud, I encourage you – implore you – to give up your day on November 3 and volunteer for the effort or work as a poll watcher. If it’s such a widespread issue, and these shadowy forces are at work, feel free to don the cape and crack the case by standing there and providing a watchful eye. Considering how loud the cries of corruption are going to be when races don’t go the way that people expect them to – our online echo chambers almost always give us a false sense that the world is just like us and believes the same way we do – it should be pretty easy to stand there and prevent that from happening, right?
Courts are going to be busy this year. Challenges are going to be made. And that’s not even taking into consideration what will happen if a major elected official decides that they aren’t going to accept the results of the election.
Don’t let any of that dissuade you.
Do your civic duty.
And advocate for the counting of each and every single ballot that is cast.
Approach this like the future of American Democracy is hanging in the balance.
Because make no mistake – it absolutely is.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.