There is nothing more sacred to America’s democracy than the integrity of our election system. Yet the 2020 presidential election is under siege, something that was unimaginable a few years ago.
President Donald Trump’s fierce attacks on our election system, plus hinting that he may not accept the results, goes beyond the president himself. It’s also about all the federal, state and local candidates whose names appear on the ballot.
His assaults on mail-in voting (highly successful in Washington since 2011) were highlighted by the appointment of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy (a mega GOP donor), whose contentious testimony before Congress quickly became a partisan firestorm with no escape.
True, our voting rights are embedded in the U.S. Constitution, but the federal government is not directly involved in the nation’s election system. In most states, it’s the secretary of state who oversees elections and officially certifies the results.
As Clark County Auditor (1966-1974), among my official duties was conducting elections. It involved registering voters, setting up polling stations, tabulating ballots and reporting the election results.
Before each election, I would meet with the Republican and Democratic county chairpersons to organize bipartisan volunteers to be on duty during Election Day. Everything about it was collegial and cooperative, as they took up their assignments in the various precincts throughout Clark County, greeting and verifying voters who showed up to cast their ballots.
How we tabulate ballots is important. Back in the late 1960s, there were only two methods of casting ballots — the traditional paper ballots that were hand-counted, and the giant lever machines, that were costly and outdated. That’s when Clark County became the first nationwide to use computerized voting that quickly spread statewide and beyond.
In lobbying the Legislature to gain authorization, I came to appreciate the concerns and sentiment about voter security and necessary safeguards. Today, there is extreme scrutiny of the various mechanisms used for counting ballots.
Certainly, there are technical glitches, delays, confusion and other flaws that can raise questions, even skepticism. In this election year, the problems are mounting with the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding the use of mail-in ballots and an unprecedented voter turnout.
The possible delays in posting the election results are raising even more doubts and scenarios, but there is clearly no evidence of fraud or rigged elections. Yet the partisan operatives are going all out to undermine our election system.
I am confident that election officials around the country will address these problems before the Nov. 3 election and commit to ensuring the integrity of how we elect the president and others on the ballot. The only alternative is what authoritarian leaders do to guarantee their lifetime in office.
Don Bonker is a former Clark County auditor and represented Washington’s 3rd Congressional District from 1975-88.