Tag Archives: Ballots

American Democracy Is Not As Fragile As You Think

The past year has been less of a roller coaster ride than a grey fugue the country stumbled through, like a blind man negotiating a highway in the wrong direction. 

At the end of the year, after battling a plague and an economic meltdown, terrible uncertainty and a horrific body count, came the event billed as seismic and life altering – the Presidential election. 

The American public was entrusted with the task of choosing their next leader, someone who would lead the way out of the fugue and escort the blinded country safely across that killer highway to the right side. The build up to the election of 2020 felt cataclysmic: millions of us voted, according to our convictions, which were the strongest they’ve ever been. 

2020 has been the year, when voting felt like you were a contestant in a gameshow, where you had to choose between two doors – behind the right door was the way out to safety and bliss. Make the wrong choice and a trapdoor opens and deposits you into a dark, unending hell. No matter who you supported, the wrong door, according to your beliefs, was a hell trap.

Because of how important I felt this election year was, I volunteered to be an election officer.

After all the votes were counted and the theatrics over election fraud began, it occurred to me that my experience in my official capacity as an election officer gave me a special, grassroots insight into the process.

The process was as clean and flawless as a new born baby. 

It began with my online application. I was then required to fill in an application in person at our local government center building. My ID was checked multiple times and cross checked with what I filled into different forms. I was assigned a precinct close to my home, in my daughter’s old elementary school, and told to report at 5:00 am on election day. I was also required to watch a two-hour training video, since in-person training in the middle of COVID-19 was out of the question.

On Nov 3, at 5:00 am, before the birds began to chirp, we gathered in what was the school gym. Our chief was already there, and the ballot machines stood bulkily in a corner. They required a special procedure to be opened and two of us were assigned to open and activate them. A poll watcher was present and there were at least seven other election officers milling around, prepping the tables and activating the poll pads. 

To try to stuff those machines with fraudulent ballots would be the equivalent of performing a naked tap dance in a kindergarten classroom and hope no one would notice. 

The polls opened at 6:00 am and voting public began to line up at 5:30, spilling out the door into the chill of the morning. There was a festive spirit in the air – people were eager to cast their ballot and make their tiny mark on history.

What really sold me on the experience of being an election officer was how democratic it was. 

There was no bureaucratic hierarchy with the chief barking out orders. We were volunteers -many of the officers were my neighbors. We were ordinary citizens entrusted with making sure the voting process was fair and accurate. 

The momentous, historic nature of the task was not lost on us. We joked about how we would tell our grandkids we worked the polls in the divisive, fateful, 2020 election. All of us took turns at sanitizing the tables after people voted, monitoring the lines, handing out ballots, checking in voters and handling the machines.

Jyoti Minocha with poll workers at her precinct.

When I was checking in voters I realized many were neighbors I had never met. I also gleaned after chatting with my fellow election officers, that some had political leanings which were the antithesis of mine. 

However, whatever our political bent, we were there to work at making our democracy a success – our small precinct was a study in how  people with  political points of view which are about as compatible as a spark in an ammunition dump, are capable of cooperation, in a sane and sensible fashion to further a common good – the right to a free and fair election. 

After months of watching the meltdowns, vitriol and extremism on television, it was a relief to realize that the average American is someone like me, a regular person just trying to do what is right and leave a better legacy for our children.  

At the end of the day after the polls closed, we tallied the ballots with the machine count, and sealed them in boxes which would be sent to the county clerk. There was no scope for tampering: all the officers were present and had to sign off on the final count before the boxes were sealed. 

It was as transparent a process as could possibly be.

I know for sure I’m going to volunteer for every election, going forward. Understanding how the system worked made me realize how important volunteers, the ordinary, everyday people, with no axe to grind and no political connections, are essential to ensuring that this grassroots foundation of democracy is preserved.

 I discovered that America’s democracy is much less fragile than it appears to be. 


Jyoti Minocha is an DC-based educator and writer who holds a Masters in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins, and is working on a novel about the Partition.

Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing editor at India Currents

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Mail-in Ballots for All Registered County Voters

HISTORIC CHANGE: VOTER’S CHOICE VOTE-BY-MAIL BALLOTS ON THEIR WAY TO ALL VOTERS FOR MARCH 3, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY ELECTION Over 940,000 Ballots Mailed to County Voters 

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – A Vote by Mail ballot was mailed out to every active registered voter in the County today as part of the new voting model aimed at encouraging election participation by making casting a ballot easier than ever before. 

There are over 940,000 active registered voters in the County and for the first time in the history of Santa Clara County elections, all will be mailed a Vote by Mail packet. That includes an official ballot which may be filled out and placed in the accompanying postage-paid envelope, which is signed by the voter for verification and returned to the Registrars’ Office. 

Voters are encouraged to check their primary election ballot when they receive it. Nearly 300,000 Santa Clara County voters are registered as No Party Preference (NPP), and their primary election ballots will not include candidates for President. NPP voters who wish to cast a ballot in the presidential primary can still choose and cast a crossover ballot for American Independent, Democratic or Libertarian parties. All requests for new ballots to be mailed must be received no later than February 25. The Green, Peace & Freedom, and Republican parties opted to not allow crossover voting. If voters choose to cast a ballot for the Green, Peace & Freedom or Republican party they must re-register with that party. Voters can re-register online at RegistertoVote.ca.gov

The new Voter’s Choice Act election model was adopted by the Board of Supervisors last year with a goal of making it more convenient for Santa Clara County voters to cast a ballot. In addition to giving every voter the opportunity to return a ballot by mail, there are improved options for voting in person as well, with Vote Centers opening throughout the County up to 10 days before Election Day beginning on Saturday, February 22. Any Santa Clara County voter may go to any of the 110 Vote Center locations to vote in person. Early in-person voting begins today at the Registrars’ Office located at 1555 Berger Drive, Building 2, in San Jose. 

Board of Supervisors: Mike Wasserman, Cindy Chavez, Dave Cortese, Susan Ellenberg, S. Joseph Simitian County Executive: Jeffrey V. Smith 

“This truly is the future of elections,” said Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey. “We have seen Vote by Mail rates skyrocket to the point where nearly 80 percent of voters – four out of five – chose this option in 2018. That figure was expected to continue to rise even if we did not adopt the Voter’s Choice model. It really just makes sense to send everyone a Vote by Mail ballot.” 

More than 7,000 Vote by Mail packets, also with postage-paid return envelopes, were previously mailed to military and overseas voters to ensure that they have enough time to return their ballots by the deadline. In order to be counted for the March 3 Presidential Primary Election, Vote by Mail ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and must be received at the Registrars’ Office by Friday, March 6. 

About 22 of Santa Clara County’s new Vote Centers will open on Saturday, February 22, 2020 in locations throughout the County – a full 10 days before Election Day for any voter who wishes to vote a live ballot. More will open in the final four days through Election Day, with a total of more than 110 locations. All Vote Centers can be used by any Santa Clara County voter – voters are no longer tied to a single polling place. Anyone can also get a replacement ballot at any of the Vote Centers and utilize additional services such as registration, language or accessibility assistance. Vote by Mail ballots can also be returned to any Vote Center or to any of the nearly 100 drop boxes countywide, many of which are available 24 hours a day. The list of all Vote Center and official drop box locations is posted on our website at eservices.sccgov.org. 

The last day to register to vote in the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election is February 18, in order for a ballot to be mailed to you by the deadline of February 25, and can be done online at Register to Vote. Voters wishing to check their registration may do so on the website at Check Your Registration Status. Conditional voter registration begins of February 19 through Election day for those voters that have moved into the county, need to update their address, or their party affiliation. 

Voters should complete a new registration form if they have moved, changed their name, or would like to change their political party preference. To register to vote in Santa Clara County, a voter must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, a Santa Clara County resident, and not imprisoned or on parole for a felony. 

For more information, including locations and hours of all Vote Centers, drop boxes and information about needed services, contact the Registrar of Voters’ Office at (408) 299-VOTE (8683) or toll-free at (866) 430-VOTE (8683), or visit www.sccvote.org. # # # 

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