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A salute to election officials who, contrary to Trump’s claim, are making sure every vote is counted

Reversing the flow of this presidential election, as engineers famously did with the Chicago River in 1887, is the ultimate pipe dream. 

Poll workers count ballots at the Maricopa County Election Department in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 5, 2020.
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Our heroes in 2020 have been the first responders and health care professionals who risk their own safety and well-being to treat COVID patients and protect the rest of us, and the other essential workers who face exposure by going out every day to provide the basic services we rely on.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We will be eternally grateful, even as we watch this ruthless pandemic accelerate its tragic march across the country.

But now, after the most contentious and anomalous election in decades, I salute a new group of heroes: The election officials in the battleground states who worked tirelessly to ensure that every vote was counted, finally culminating in an apparent Pennsylvania victory and the presidency for former Vice President Joe Biden.

Vote tabulators were facing so many new and unprecedented challenges this year: A record number of mail-in, absentee and early voting ballots; pressure from the media and the candidates to deliver results quickly and accurately; and a flood of threatened lawsuits challenging election protocols, counting procedures and ballot integrity.

Add to that an anxious public hungry for closure and you had a recipe for massive migraines and meltdowns.

But that didn’t happen. Maybe migraines but no meltdowns. And I have to say, as a longtime critic of government ineptitude and bureaucratic bungling, the public officials who managed the challenge of counting ballots arriving at new and different times in new and different ways in all of the swing states did a phenomenal job of making sure that, consistent with the most basic tenet of our democracy, every....vote....counts.

In Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada — the swing states that, in different scenarios, would determine the outcome — the election machinery ran as smoothly as one could have hoped for.

Vote counters — some paid, others volunteers — poured through tens of millions of ballots that arrived by mail or piled up in drop boxes. And election officials provided reliable hourly or periodic updates. Like clockwork.

Sure — there were glitches: A few machine malfunctions or programming miscues, and a few misplaced or misfiled ballots. But those were minor missteps in what was a stellar post-Election Day operation.

President Donald Trump is challenging the pro-Biden outcome in multiple states, hoping at least one of the lawsuits his legal team throws against the wall will stick and a reliably conservative Supreme Court will deliver him a 2000-like Bush v Gore victory.

But lightning rarely strikes twice and that’s the ultimate long shot, especially when there have been so few documented election-related irregularities.

Reversing the flow of the election, as engineers famously did with the Chicago River in 1887, is the ultimate pipe dream.

And when the history of this extraordinary election is written — with a focus on the impact of COVID and its economic devastation, another round of inaccurate national and statewide polls, underperforming Democrats in Senate and House races; and the intractable passion of Trump voters — the authors will also have to acknowledge the great work of election officials around the country.

They epitomized government at its best — protecting our most basic and important Democrat principle: Every eligible voter’s opportunity to cast a ballot and have that ballot counted.

So thank you, thank you, thank you.

I will continue to fight for government that is more honest, efficient, accountable and transparent.

But election officials? I got your back!

Andy Shaw is a former ABC 7 political reporter and former head of the Better Government Association. He now chairs the CHANGE Illinois Action Fund.

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