As a reporter with more than 35 years of experience covering elections for newspapers large and small in New York and Pennsylvania, I have one word for President Donald J. Trump’s assertions that elections are rigged: Bullshit.
I’ve covered village elections in a rural New York county where only 13 people showed up to vote for trustee. If voter fraud was going to take place it would have happened there because no one was paying attention. It didn’t.
In my first election as a reporter in the stone age before computers, I drove door to door to schools and churches in suburban Philadelphia with a flashlight in one hand and a notebook and pen in the other copying down final vote tallies posted on polling places. At the time papers had to tally the votes themselves in order to find out who won.
(I talked my way out of trouble that night when a curious cop shined his big flashlight on me copying the vote totals off a door at an elementary school in Lansdale, Pa. )
The next year I watched election officials from across the Montgomery County race up the courthouse steps in Norristown to get the counted ballots to the election bureau as quickly as they could. Plenty of opportunity for votes to get lost on the ride in. They didn’t.
Election officials, regardless of party affiliation, are a pretty straight bunch. At the polls, they’re the grandmothers you see year-after-year, at least one Republican and one Democrat. They hand out the ballots, answer any questions and generally point you in the direction of the elementary school bake sale fundraiser to hit on the way out after voting.
It’s your friends and neighbors who count the votes at polling places.
The results are sent to counties, who in turn send them to the state. The winners are unofficial until the official count is done, usually a week later.
Trump and his cronies would have you believe that mail-in ballots will be a problem.
Election boards across the country are about to be deluged with absentee ballots. Many of those ballots will be posted by first time absentee voters, like me, who don’t want to stand in line with strangers during a pandemic.
I got my mail-in ballot three days ago. I’ll be very careful in filling it out. I plan to drop it off at the official ballot box at the Allegheny County board of elections well before any deadlines. And I know it will be counted.
The reason our election system works so well is because we trust our neighbors, our friends, to do the right thing and count our ballots correctly.
Trump doesn’t trust anyone. And he doesn’t want you to trust anyone either.