Attacks on election officials are disgraceful

Published 5:50 pm Tuesday, December 15, 2020

I have written and published a number of editorials and columns during the past several decades extolling the work of election officials and thanking them for the job they do.

Nearly a decade ago, for example, an October Short Rows carried the following:

“Hats off to the county registrar’s office and the Isle of Wight Electoral Board. They have worked long hours for many months to ensure that next Tuesday goes as well as possible.”

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My view of state and local election officials and the systems they run has not changed. They have always been and remain the rock upon which our democratic republic rests. But never, in our wildest fantasies, could any of us have imagined a day when being an election official would become hazardous duty. And yet, that day has arrived.

I had planned to shun serious topics this month and submit only warm, nostalgic reflections on Christmases past, but if a love of this country means anything at all, it means coming to her defense at this time. I am not only embarrassed by the irresponsible attacks on our election system, I am frightened by them, as every freedom-loving American should be.

Can any of us have imagined that armed protesters would have had the temerity, the brass, to picket the home of a state election official at night while she was inside with her 4-year-old son decorating their Christmas tree?

Can any of us imagine that a lawyer — an officer of the court — would actually call for the execution of a former federal official who had worked to ensure election integrity and was then fired for publicly saying that said integrity was intact?

Both incidents and many more have occurred within the past several weeks as extremists have pushed the outgoing president’s claims that the election was “stolen” from him.

Donald Trump’s claims may salve his bruised ego, and they certainly have helped him raise money (over $200 million) donated by supporters who somehow think sending him cash will help restore him to the Oval Office.

His ego is of no importance, however, nor are his plans to build a media empire with money finagled from followers. What is important is the threat to our nation, and it’s real.

Our system of elections has never been perfect — far from it. We historically denied the right to vote to women and minorities. The 19th Amendment corrected the former and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 attempted with considerable success to make the franchise colorblind.

Since then, the Supreme Court has weakened that law and enabled a number of states to try in numerous, creative ways to suppress votes. And, yes, occasionally, someone will vote illegally. A couple of voters (they happened to be Republicans) were caught doing so in Pennsylvania back in November.

And yet, by and large, our state elections, which collectively become our “national” election every four years, are run professionally, fairly and without political bias.

The roots of this nation’s deep political division are complex. Much of it has been caused by a cynical handful of geniuses who have put together a “social network” system capable of distorting public opinion on a massive scale. An equally cynical group of ideologues has used that system to do just that, on both sides of the political spectrum.

Restoring some degree of sanity to the national discussion, finding some common ground from which we can move forward, will be daunting, and I am less optimistic today than I was even six months ago that we can find that path. But we must search for it.

A starting point might be to once again believe our election officials when they say that our votes are secure and carefully protected during each and every election, and that we can believe the results.


John Edwards is publisher emeritus of The Smithfield Times. His email address is