Postcard from small-town Georgia– this world will pull through, but it’s straining right now

Over the last several days I have been lucky to be a tiny part of democracy, serving as a recount monitor for Georgia Democrats in north and middle Georgia. The first day was a bit of washout in Madison County just north of Athens because it turns out the elections office was closed on Sunday which wasn’t a huge surprise and was actually kind of funny at 8 AM in an empty parking lot.

The next two days, in Washington and Jefferson, were very enlightening and educational for me, as I completed my own personal Founders’ Triple Crown (Madison, Jefferson and Washington) and the recount/audit appears to be about finished statewide so I have a day to actually catch up and get some work done rather than driving around areas of Georgia I don’t pass through that often. 

Jefferson GA is a pretty thriving community about 20 miles from my home in Athens right near I 85 and only an hour out of downtown Atlanta. It’s a bright Red county. It’s run by a very competent Registrar and Board of Elections and my duty there was limited, just there for the final hour or so before they announced that the audit was complete and they had balanced perfectly with the election day results. Mild applause ensued and everyone went home relieved and happy, bracing for the possible further recount once the state certifies the results. 

The next day I was in Washington GA, an hour southeast of Athens about halfway to Augusta. The recount was in the old Wilkes County Courthouse and it was a much different atmosphere, a smaller town, still Red but not as solidly and the recount was being diligently conducted by a few people working against significant odds in the current health and electoral environment. Some of the people seem to have been tapped into service because of so much illness among other election workers including people who had the specific training on the new voting machines that the state just adopted for 2020. When I got there for the 1 PM shift, in a tiny room with three people counting and three Democratic observers, the tally was two votes off from the election day results and they trying hard to resolve the discrepancy. About an hour and a half later, they were down to only one vote off and they were stopping for the moment because there was nothing further to be done after three recounts in the audit process. One vote out of roughly 5000 cast will not affect any overall results but obviously the people wanted to get it exactly right so they were frustrated, and also concerned about their friends and neighbors who are hospitalized with Covid right now. The strain showed and it was sad to see how vulnerable people are right now, all of us.

Both experiences reinforced my confidence in our system of government but also worried me about the shakiness of it all. These local election workers seem to be decent, honest, capable citizens doing their level best to ensure a free and fair election regardless of their political views. When I was in those rooms observing those recounts other than those of us who were observers, I had no idea who was a Republican and he was a Democrat. But I also had no doubt that they were all working hard to get a fair result in a clean election. Especially in Washington GA, I got a glimpse at the human toll this is all taking and the thought occurred to me that everybody has their breaking point. All of us.

As we filed out after the recount we thanked the people for their hard and painstaking work in making sure our democracy functions even under such difficult circumstances. And another recount evidently looms here in the politics madness that is Georgia right now. As I wound my way through the country roads back home, I thought how these small experiences have also strengthened my resolve to work harder for the next seven weeks to send some more qualified adults up to Washington DC where big decisions get made. No doubt that all Georgians would be much better off with Rev Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff representing them than the cartoonish political retreads now in power. I believe that indeed, this world will pull through, but it’s straining right now and Georgia can lead the way back to something sane.