I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we seem to be living in rather partisan times. I’ve written before about these times, and likened them to the years before the Civil War, when Sen. Charles Sumner, a leader in the anti-slavery movement, was attacked and nearly killed on the Senate floor by a pro-slavery congressman. Happily, we’ve not had any such attacks recently within the halls of our Capitol building, though at least one active-duty Army officer has had to move his family to a “safe location” after having the audacity to testify to the truth, as he knows it, regarding our president. We live in troubled times, similar to the 1850s, when to disagree is all too often seen as reason enough to question the patriotism and loyalty of those with whom we differ.
Happily, the Founding generation left us with a peaceful and principled method to express our disagreements and to choose our way forward — elections. For the first time in human history, a society was empowered to choose a government for their own goals and desires — a government to serve the people and which, if necessary, can be replaced, peacefully at the ballot box.
Therefore, free and open elections should be at the very top of everyone’s priority list. If elections are not, in fact, free and open, we cannot trust the outcomes and the legitimacy of the entire government comes into question. Ironically, I’m not actually talking about Donald Trump here, though I do have quite a few thoughts I could offer, given that the impeachment hearing is running on my iPad next to my computer. But I’m guessing you may have had your fill of that saga, at least for the moment, and so I want to talk with you about one of the most important public figures in your life: your local county clerk and recorder.
I’m guessing that not too many kids dream of the day they can become a clerk and recorder. That’s a pity, because in Colorado and elsewhere, our county clerks hold liberty in their hands. They are the front line of keeping our elections clean. All they ask for are the tools to properly and securely run said elections.
A Colorado Politics story tells us about a recent action by the Colorado County Clerks Association to secure additional federal funding to make sure we have greater election security. Now I know that your own partisanship will inform where you likely stand on this issue. Our current POTUS would have us believe that the only real problems with elections are the Democrats getting millions of illegals to vote for the Dem candidate, thus costing him the outright win he clearly desires. Now, we know that’s nonsense, and that the president’s own so-called “voter fraud” commission mercifully shut down with no results, but not before spending a few million dollars of taxpayers' money. Such alleged “fraud” doesn’t even pass the smell test — if you were, in fact, an illegal, would you seek out an opportunity to present yourself to government officials to vote illegally? Back in my own congressional run in 2008, I had the chance to ask the then-Colorado secretary of state about voter fraud in Colorado. He told me that they had found 12 incidents of people voting twice. All 12, he told me, turned out to be elderly Republican women, who had moved to Florida or Arizona for the winter months and had, apparently accidentally, voted in both locations.
But even if you are a conspiracy fan, and think there are shenanigans going on in elections, shouldn’t you be even more committed to properly funding election security? Apparently not, if you are Mitch McConnell, unless the pressure gets to be too much. After months of blocking a bipartisan election security bill, McConnell suddenly declared that he had been in favor of the bill all along, and threw his support behind it. That’s good news for the county clerks here.
If you really do believe in following the will of the people, if you truly support free and fair elections, then you have the backs of our county clerks. Honest elections have clear paper trails of votes, checkable after the fact, and have enough polling stations across our communities and rural areas. Happily, Colorado has not gone the way of many southern states — Georgia in particular — where GOP leadership has shut down over 1,200 polling locations (very often in poorer and minority areas). Heck, there are seven counties in Georgia with only a single voting location. Can you imagine the unfairness of, say, a single voting location in Denver county? El Paso county? Mesa county?
So, support our county clerks! Let’s aim for truly free and fair elections.
Now if we can just keep the Russians out.
Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.