The ballot is our greatest equalizer. It is how we can give everyone an equal voice and an equal impact on our government. But that is only true if people show up to the polls, cast their vote and trust the results.
Remember: No politics at the dinner table. That was my sixth-grade substitute teacher’s advice for a calm Thanksgiving. But there was just one problem—in my family, politics is all we talk about.
My grandmother was a Democrat who worked on JFK’s campaign. My uncle—her son-in-law—was chief of staff for Republican U.S. Senator Wayne Allard. As you can imagine, we don’t all see eye to eye on every issue or about every candidate. But no topic is off the table, and even the kids are expected to listen and participate. It is instilled in us from a young age: It doesn’t matter what party you support. It matters that you support the process. That you support democracy.
As the clerk and recorder for Weld County, Colo., I now oversee elections. I’ve dedicated my adult life to the political process. I started as a temporary worker in the 2004 election—as a favor to my grandmother, who volunteered as an election judge well into her 70s, and who was recruiting election office staff. Eighteen years later, I’ve worked more than 30 elections, and with every one, I’m blown away by the hard work that goes into making it all happen, and the dedication of the people doing that work.
In 18 years, I’ve also seen the public attitude toward elections change. People have become disenchanted, skeptical, and, more recently, hostile and even violent. People think elections are run by a boogeyman—a faceless man behind the curtain, pulling the strings. But, the truth is, elections are run by everyday people with familiar faces—the face of my grandmother, the face of your uncle, our neighbors, friends. People who believe the right to vote is precious and should be protected. People who believe what I do: that elections are the lifeblood of our government.
I’ve worked more than 30 elections, and with every one, I’m blown away by the hard work that goes into making it all happen, and the dedication of the people doing that work.
That the public has forgotten the human face of elections is dangerous, and it came to a head in 2020. I experienced it firsthand with people trying to intimidate and pressure me into doing something not only against the law, but against my morals of integrity and self-respect. I have chosen to stand up against intimidation and pressure and continue to be professional and respectful just as my family has shown me all of these years.
Election workers across the country faced threats—from anonymous callers, keyboard warriors and even crowds that turned into mobs outside our offices. It’s alarming—for myself and my colleagues, who have all dedicated their time and energy to making sure you can go to the polls and cast your ballot. But what is most terrifying about this shift in attitude is the impact on voters. Some show up at the polls, suspicious that the machines are rigged or their ballot won’t be counted. Worse, some don’t show up at all, because they don’t think it matters.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The ballot is our greatest equalizer. It is how we can give everyone an equal voice and an equal impact on our government. But that is only true if people show up to the polls, cast their vote and trust the results.
And of course, it’s connected. When election workers are threatened and unsafe, it threatens the whole process. We have to restore faith in our election process, and our election workers, so we can show up safely to do the job and you can show up to cast your ballot.
Some voters show up at the polls, suspicious that the machines are rigged or their ballot won’t be counted. Worse, some don’t show up at all, because they don’t think it matters.
Despite the suspicion election workers have faced—and because of it—I make a point to be out in my community, answering questions, talking to the public about what I do and how we run elections. I want people to trust the process so they participate.
As clerk, I have a microphone. It may not be a big microphone, but if I can reach even two people, and they reach two people, slowly but surely we can change the tide of public opinion. But you don’t have to have a microphone to have an impact—you can just be around your dinner table, showing your family that it’s not only okay, but important, to talk about the issues and to engage with democracy. And that the most important thing is to go to the polls and fill out your ballot.
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