By Kent Willmann
Working as an election judge during the recent Colorado primary renewed my faith and hope in democracy. I trust the voters. The polls were not very busy on election day. At no point was there a line for people to vote in person. Although, there often was a short line of cars waiting to turn in their ballots into the drive-up mailbox. Despite the disappointing turnout, the people who did show up were nothing short of inspiring.
Those voters, their message was clear. Voting matters. Most were shy and quiet, humble to do their civic duty, yet voting mattered. It mattered to the immigrant woman who cast her ballot for the first time. It mattered to the elderly woman who proudly declared as she walked out, “I have voted in every election in Boulder County in the last 50 years.” Many were working very hard to vote, some hurried in after work (appealing to my own procrastination instinct). Others needed to change their address, or wanted to replace a damaged ballot; one actually had been chewed up by their dog — yes the classic my-dog-ate-it excuse.
My job as a judge included handing out the “I voted stickers.” People love those stickers, as tangible evidence of duty done. They seemed to matter most to the very young voters, exercising the franchise soon after turning 18. Several shared their stickers with their kids and snapped selfies with our “Vote Here” sign, building a family tradition that voting matters. A very pregnant woman took a picture with the sign and an “I Voted” sticker on her protruding bare belly. A few declined the stickers, content in their knowledge that they had done the right thing. One woman sternly declared, “I don’t need no stinkin’ sticker.” All to vote in an election that had very few contested races.
Not only do I trust the voters, I trust those serving our communities as election workers and judges. My election co-workers were dedicated to helping people vote and to doing it the right way. Patriotism reigned. Most were dressed in hats, scarves, shirts and skirts with some combination of stars and stripes and red, white and blue. Republicans and Democrats served voters with equal diligence. We also had about a dozen election observers who were on the lookout for election irregularities. I don’t think they found very much. What they did find was election workers serving as a sort of live customer service department ensuring that everyone who wanted to vote, and was eligible, got a chance to do so.
During my lunch, I listened to the Jan. 6 hearings. At a break, some commentator/historian said you will remember where you were when you heard this testimony. I wanted to say: You all should check out voting centers and remember what you see there. At a time when our democracy seems imperiled, the answer is to trust voters and voting more. That is the way to keep our republic. Jefferson, Franklin and their civics teachers would be proud of these citizens. I know I was.
Kent Willmann spent more than 30 teaching high school social studies. This is his first year as an election judge. He is a Longmont resident.