Thank goodness that’s over

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Well, thank goodness that’s over. At least, most people accept that it is now over. There are some people across the nation who continue to cling to the belief, or desperate hope, that President Trump will miraculously pull success from the jaws of defeat. Friends … that’s not going to happen.

Like many people who enjoy following politics, I watched closely as the 2020 ballots rolled in and rolled in and rolled in. I cannot recall a presidential election when it took so long to tally up the results on election night, and the next night, and the next night.

Finally, the number of votes cast for Vice President Biden were determined to bring him to the 270 electoral votes required to declare victory. The electoral votes are based on the number of people who represent us in Congress – Senate and House of Representatives. That number is currently at 538. One over half of that number is 270 — the exact number of electoral votes needed.

Several years ago, in an attempt to explain the workings of the Electoral College, I included the following in a Wilmington News Journal column.

In a true democracy, each citizen gets to vote on everything. Every vote is counted once and the majority rules. Many political scientists describe this, quite bluntly, as mob rule. In a true democracy, the rights of the majority always rule, and the rights of the individual become secondary.

In a republic, as designed by the framers of our Constitution, the rights of every single individual are protected. In this way, we are all represented collectively yet every individual is still protected. This is an important distinction.

A true democracy has been described as two wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for dinner. Under the rules and laws of a democracy, the sheep has no protection and just needs a little mint jelly on the side. Guess what’s for dinner?

However, in a republic, such as ours, the two wolves cannot vote to eat the sheep because the rights of the sheep are also carefully protected by the law.

In the late 1700s, understanding that no form of government was perfect, our founding fathers combined the best of both a democratic and republican form of government. Our founding fathers, the framers of our Constitution, created a representative republic.

Those who serve in the legislative branch of our federal government (the Senate and the House of Representatives) are democratically elected within each individual state. Once they are elected in their home state, they are then required to vote (in the house or senate) on our behalf – whether we agree with them or not.

So, our government is a mixture. At the local and state level, we operate more as a democracy. At the federal level, we operate as a republic, where other people vote on our behalf. Even though the states operate more as a democracy, the states cannot pass laws that infringe on the individual, personal rights of each citizen.

Our individual rights are protected by the Constitution.

That keeps the wolves from having lamb for dinner.

A lot of people have been critical of the electoral college. I think that’s a bit unfair. The electoral college was specifically designed to protect the smaller of the states.

Today, if the vote was based solely on population, the 12 most populated states could always determine who would be the president of the other 38 states. In reality, the largest cities within those highly populated states could rule the entire country.

Each county board of elections across the nation worked diligently to assure that all the votes were counted; counted only once; no more, no less. This year, due to the pandemic, Debbie and I didn’t know if we wanted to drive to the polls or not. We contacted the Clinton County Board of Elections and requested mail-in ballots.

They were received well before the elections, but later we decided to vote in-person. The polling officials had us use a provisional ballot. That way they could double check and make sure we did not try to vote twice by mailing in our mail-in ballot and voting in person.

I understand that process and agree that is the way it should be done. It takes longer to verify each vote, but it also makes sure that people vote only once.

Thank you to all the Board of Elections and all poll workers who rose before daybreak and worked throughout the night to accept and tally all of our votes. You did a great job. Your work is appreciated.

Some people will not be happy with the results, but I am absolutely convinced it was a fair election.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist