As I stated in a letter to the editor before the Nov. 3 General Election voting began, “the most crucial pillar of our democracy is fair and free elections.”
On Monday, the Newton County Board of Elections certified results to the Georgia Secretary of State reflecting nearly 55,000 ballots were cast by Newton County voters across all channels, including absentee mail-in ballots, early in-person ballots, and election day ballots. In total, just shy of 60% of Newton County registered voters cast a ballot. This is a level of voter participation Newton County should be proud of.
I witnessed first-hand the diligence of citizens who waited in line to exercise their civic responsibility, and I observed every day the professionalism of our Newton County Board of Elections staff and volunteers. This is why I am so disturbed by the continued barrage of unsubstantiated accusations of voter fraud and corrupt vote tabulations in media reports, social media posts, and conversations. Baselessly attacking election results we dislike chips away at the foundation of our democracy and weakens our republic.
As Chairman of the Newton County Board of Elections, I am compelled to speak on behalf of everyone who worked so hard to deliver a trustworthy, fair, reliable voting process under the most difficult circumstances our country has ever faced. Our election system worked. Voters stood in line or mailed in their ballots, and a conscientious group of civilian volunteers managed the electoral process and counted the votes. The election workers were your neighbors, your friends, and people you go to church with. Their singular, unwavering goal was to ensure every registered voter had the opportunity to cast their ballot and that every ballot was counted accurately.
The entire process was transparent. Republican and Democratic monitors worked with staff and Board members to process mail-in ballots and tabulate the results. The local press representatives were given periodic reports on progress and permitted to witness the process.
If there was a question as to the intent of a voter, a panel consisting of a Democratic appointee, a Republican appointee, and a Board member or appointee reviewed the ballot. I saw no instance where all three panel members did not unanimously agree with the adjudication of a ballot.
Every absentee ballot must have an oath signed by the voter. If an envelope is not signed, that ballot cannot be processed. Every voter who votes in person must present identification which matches the Secretary of State database of registered voters.
The number of absentee mail-in ballots must balance with the number of envelopes opened. The number of voters who checked in to vote in person is balanced with the number of ballots cast and counted.
The entire counting and tabulation process is completed in a room monitored by staff, volunteers, and representatives of both local political parties.
As citizens, we have an obligation to support and abide by election results produced from a process managed by the people we have entrusted to fulfill that duty for us. Before you perpetuate accusations of voter fraud or corruption in the counting process, talk to the representatives of the Republican and Democratic parties who were in the room. Ask the Democratic and Republican representatives on the Newton County Board of Elections what their experience was.
The electoral process only works if the voters have confidence in process and outcome. Trust in the system is a higher objective than any particular electoral result you may have sought. We must not sacrifice the sacred institution of our electoral system because it produced an outcome some voters did not want.
Philip A. Johnson
Chairman of the Newton County Board of Elections and Registration