With the most contentious Presidential election in modern American history coming to a close, there is enough finger-pointing going on to satisfy even the most cynical. Sadly, that means that a great deal of good work is going unnoticed. Now is the time to thank the many election volunteers, paid and unpaid, who gave so much of their time and energy to help make the voting process work as it should in Swain County.
Inside the polls, there were dozens of people assigned to tasks such as verifying voters’ names and registrations; explaining authorization forms voters must sign; wiping voting booths clean after each use in this time of COVID-19; providing curbside service, if needed; and redirecting “lost” voters to their proper polling places. The inside workers are recruited from each party, trained by county election staff, and required to keep their own political preferences private.
Outside the polls, the rules are very different. Dozens of partisan volunteers spent their time welcoming voters to the polls, and offering opinions, voting recommendations, candidates’ campaign literature and sample ballots to anyone who was interested. At the Whittier-Cherokee precinct under the leadership of Lisa Montelongo and Mary “Missy” Crowe during early voting and on Election Day, seven young Cherokee people handed out information, provided free tee shirts and literature, and made sure Cherokee people voted. Special thanks is given to Gadusi Crowe, Amy Lincoln, P’takatu Lincoln, Simon Montelongo, Quedi Sampson, Mikayla Shell and Rose Shell for all of their efforts. Some of these young people also helped with voter registration prior to early voting.
There were other volunteers, both inside and outside the polls, who were required to sit silently as they monitored their locations for problems or voting irregularities.
Clearly, the volunteers, along with paid election staff, got the job done well. When all of the votes were counted during the official canvass on November 13, the numbers showed that 4,675 people voted during early voting, 1,658 voted in person on Election Day and 760 voted by mail-in or absentee ballots. 14 of 58 provisional ballots were accepted; those rejected were cast by out-of-county voters. The final total showed that 7,107 out of 10,088 registered Swain County voters cast their ballots. That’s a turnout rate of 70.34 percent – the highest in recent memory.
The process did not end there. There was a recount on Nov. 20 to reexamine votes cast in the race for chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court. Under the watch of the Board of Elections and observers from both parties, the final totals were substantially the same as those reported in the prior canvass. There will be a more detailed, “hand-eye” recount soon because the margin between the two candidates is razor thin, statewide.
No matter which candidates you were backing and who won or lost, we owe a debt of gratitude to the dozens of Swain County volunteers whose efforts and enthusiasm make the voting system work, year after year, election after election. Thanks, volunteers! It could not have been done without you.
Mary A. Herr