On Election Day, voters across North Carolina will exercise their right to vote; others will have already done so during early voting. Just as our nation has done for over 220 years, citizens will choose our leaders through free and fair elections that reflect the will of the voting public. It’s a process as American as apple pie and one that every American should participate in and take pride in.
As a former justice, I know how nerve-wracking Election Day can be. I always worked hard on the bench and felt I would prevail on the ballot, but Election Day was always tense. But I never questioned the voting process’ integrity. While nothing is perfect, I have faith in our electoral system.
Our nation has a lot of experience holding elections. Over the years, we have continually improved upon the system, making voting easier and fraud harder. Here in North Carolina, for example, we have undertaken significant reforms since our last presidential election with the goal of protecting the integrity of our ballot box. We have employed a decentralized election management structure that relies on local members of the community to staff voting precincts. Other nations have been so envious of our system, they have imported our best practices to improve their own election procedures and frequently ask American experts to observe their voting operations to ensure accountability.
North Carolina’s entire system is overseen by a five-person bipartisan panel appointed by the governor. Currently, the North Carolina Board of Elections has three Republicans and two Democrats. The board works with the 100 county-level boards of elections, which are also bipartisan, to ensure all elections are free and fair.
But the real beauty of American elections is that they are overseen at the ground level by members of local communities. These are the real stewards of fairness and transparency. Our friends and neighbors work at voting precincts, check voter rolls and count the results. Poll workers are observed by monitors tapped by campaigns and political parties to ensure rules are followed and votes are tallied accurately. Multiple layers of accountability are engrained in the system at every step.
Over 4.5 million votes were cast in North Carolina alone during the 2012 presidential race. Collecting and counting these votes is a herculean task and mistakes are inevitable during any undertaking that is so large in scope. But thanks to the commitment of poll workers and years of experience spotting and correcting mistakes, they are kept to a minimum.
When an issue does arise, the law provides for legal means to challenge results. Detailed records that are accessible to everyone are kept of who voted and where. If an election produces a particularly close outcome, votes will be recounted to provide supreme accuracy.
Every election year comes with an endless list of rumors and innuendo regarding every aspect of election season. But when it comes to the sanctity of the voting booth and accuracy of the results, I would echo Senator Richard Burr’s recent comment that he is “…not worried about America’s ability to conduct fair elections.” I wholeheartedly agree.
So, as you head to the polls on election day, leave the anxiety to those on the ballot. Instead, take a moment to feel pride in a system that is the envy of the world and have confidence that the will of the voters will be done.
Robert F. Orr is a retired NC Supreme Court Justice who now splits his time in Raleigh and Yancey County. Justice Orr is a Republican. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.