by Tom Koch
I submit that democracy was not on the ballot last Tuesday, but it is very much subject to what happens once the ballots are finally counted.
Our republic, which has survived many and various challenges over the past 231 years, is built on the consent of the governed. That consent is derived at the ballot box, and acceptance of the results of the balloting is critical to our survival as a nation and a society.
Other systems are constituted differently. Joe Stalin said, “It’s not important who casts the ballots—what’s important is who counts them.” And in more recent years, nation after nation has seen their democratic forms seized by strongmen who were duly elected (Turkey) or by military juntas (Myanmar.) Thank God—and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and Ben Franklin and others—that these are not our systems. At least not yet.
It is a short slide from a stable democratic republic into a banana republic (without the bananas!), and we must be wary of the dangers within.
Let me be clear. The January 6 storming of the Capitol was, in fact, revolutionary in nature and, if successful, would have destroyed our democratic structure. The 2020 election was not stolen; Donald Trump lost the election, and his claims to the contrary ill befit a man who I think was generally a pretty good president.
Our electronic voting machines are more accurate than hand counting by humans, despite occasional malfunctions that are fixed without affecting the eventual vote count. Reasonable voter identification requirements are not an impediment to the voting rights of certain groups of voters, and Vermont could benefit from something more than just the “checklist,” which was fine when everyone knew everyone else in town. There is some degree of fraud in every election cycle, but not enough to affect the results.
In short, elections in this great country, and especially in this wonderful State of Vermont, are essentially fair and accurate, and the results need to be respected and accepted. Certainly, not everyone will be happy with the results, but elections – not fights in the streets – are how we resolve our differences.
We need to be thankful for the fact that we live with such a system, and once the votes are accurately counted, it is critically important that all of us accept the results. The survival of democracy depends on that acceptance.
The author is a resident of Barre Town and its former member of the House of Representatives.