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Chester County Press

Editorial: Protecting the imperfect masterpiece

11/11/2020 10:16AM ● By Richard Gaw

Beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 4 and ending at about 11:30 this past Saturday morning, most of America – indeed, a portion of the world’s population – saw nearly four consecutive days of their lives portioned down to a tick of numbers that streamed on I-phones, computer screens, televisions, radios, newspaper websites and social media.

As the nation waited for the results of the 2020 Presidential election, its behaviors took on varying degrees of anxiety, fervency, rage and anticipation. As America became a division of impassioned sentiment, deep inside the vacuum of our ballot counting locations -- mostly in battleground states where the election had not yet been decided -- armies of unpaid volunteers quietly and without fanfare continued the work of counting all of the votes.

In nearby Philadelphia, police officers and National Guard service members patrolled the areas surrounding the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Police arrested two armed men who had driven from Virginia with a plot to attack the facility.

The votes continued to be counted.

Over the course of four days, organizers from a group called Freedom Works For America shared Philadelphia streets with other groups called Refuse Fascism and the Movement Alliance Project.

The votes continued to be counted.

In Arizona and Georgia, protesters claiming voter fraud stormed ballot-counting centers, threatening the volunteers with phone calls, and suggesting that every individual at every polling station was part of a conspiracy to rig the Presidential election.

In Michigan, a conspiracy theory alleged that poll workers were transporting additional ballots to counting centers hours after polls closed. 

For four consecutive days and nights, thousands of volunteers who knew they were not being paid for their services, who knew that the responsibility they were hired to perform was under attack and whose families all worried for their safety, quietly continued to count the votes until all of them were counted.

In 2002, the Sixth Circuit Court held that the Bush administration had violated the First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press by conducting hundreds of secret hearings to deport immigrants suspected of ties to terrorism. In his ruling, long-serving federal judge Damon Keith wrote, “When government begins closing doors, it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation. Democracies die behind closed doors.”

At its most basic construct, Democracy is a precious alignment of freedoms and protections, but in practice and application, it is an imperfect and vulnerable masterpiece. For the past 244 years, it has been carved into, whittled down, spat on, disrespected and disputed in the name of those who attempt to defy it. Often, the saving of our democracy has not called upon our nation’s most prominent leaders, but upon our most unheralded, and over the last week, it required the work of volunteers to keep that door from slamming shut.