I’m writing this the day after Election Day. I have probably gotten four hours of sleep, and my personal anxiety over the results is definitely strong. It feels hard to say anything definitive about the outcome or the direction of the country. But two things are certain: voting has never been more popular, and our officials must be applauded for pulling off such a historic election.
Here in Nebraska, voter turnout reached a mind-boggling 73 percent according to the preliminary results from the Secretary of State’s office – a number that far eclipses recent election cycles. Nationwide, our turnout was a staggering 66.9 percent according to the Elections Project.
Numbers like this would mean that we voted in rates not seen since 1900. Even our two presidential candidates, regardless of who wins, will set records for the number of votes received. Both men are on track to get more votes than President Obama received in 2008.
I am aware that the message I’m sounding seems optimistic and perhaps naïve in a time where there is much anxiety. Coronavirus continues to impact every aspect of our lives. Our political discourse, while it has made strides in some areas, has still not healed from the deep divisions created within the last decade.
We live in a time where we expect the next news item to be more bad news, where about two-thirds of us believe that the country is not going in the right direction. There’s even a lot of uncertainty about whether the “losing” side of the election – Republican or Democrat – will be able to accept the result in a peaceful manner.
But it’s precisely in moments like these when we need to remember that not all is lost and there is good, encouraging work being done in our world.
In a season of pandemic, our election administrators have worked tirelessly to ensure that many avenues of voting are available to accommodate voters – from mail-in, to early voting, to drop off, to traditional day-of voting. Volunteers and new poll workers have stepped in to ensure that the most essential process of our democracy runs smoothly.
Regardless of whether the outcome of the election suited our interests, we are all part of a community with serious issues that need to be addressed.
Our elections do not solve all of these issues, but they give us the opportunity to make our voices heard. Importantly, they enable our leaders to have the legitimacy to make difficult decisions on our behalf for the good of all people.
Today, as the results continue to file in and we all anxiously await the outcome of our election, it is time to take a moment and recognize the people who have made this election historic – in the best sense of the word.
We need to recognize the state and private organizations that have worked tirelessly against the waves of misinformation to help people access their right to vote.
We need to appreciate the individuals who have given up so much of their time to make sure every ballot is counted correctly and in an integral manner.
And, Nebraskans, we need to recognize our fellow citizens, who made voting a priority in record fashion.
Say what you will about the health of our democratic system. When it comes to voter participation, we are as healthy as we’ve been in a lifetime.
Jordan Martin teaches social studies at Wilber-Clatonia Public Schools. He moonlights as an assistant one-act drama coach in the fall and a speech judge in the spring. For more Civic Nebraska Writers Group columns, click here.