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Strange days

Strange days Strange days

Dear Fred, It has been a while since I have written to you there in the year 2120. At least it has been for me. For you it has likely been part of a long afternoon of reading through seemingly endless COVID-19-related stories.

I figured that with the recent election, it would be some good human interest fodder for your 100-year anniversary retrospective on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it impacted life here in Northcentral Wisconsin.

On a purely local level, there were few real surprises in the election results. Candidates did about as well locally as they could have expected.

The biggest takeaway was in the high turnout and especially the increase in absentee ballots cast. During a typical election, the vast majority of voters show up on election day and stand in long lines until it is their opportunity to cast their vote.

With COVID-19 cases surging across the country, and especially here in Wisconsin, many people chose to vote by mailing in absentee ballots or by casting in-person absentee ballots prior to the election. I was among those who chose to cast an in-person absentee ballot and I have to give the city of Medford credit for making it a smooth process. I was in and out in about five minutes with the longest amount of time actually filling in the little circles on the ballot.

There is nothing new about either mail-in absentee ballots or about voting in-person absentee and both have a long track record of being secure and accurate ways to ensure that people are not disenfranchised because they don’t have hours to spend in line on election day.

The challenge of such a large number of absentee ballots is that they take more time to process and count. This is especially true in large cities where the number of ballots measured in the hundreds of thousands.

As with any election where people didn’t get the result they wanted, there are those who are crying foul and alleging vast conspiracies.

In reality any discrepancies between the initial count and what the local board of canvassers certifies when they review the election results later is due to human error rather than nefarious plots and is typically as mundane as transposed numbers or a number put on the wrong line.

One of the things people don’t grasp is just how decentralized the voting process is. In the United States there is no such thing as a national election. At best we have 50 state elections being held simultaneously with similar though not identical rules in place as set by each state legislature.

One of the biggest challenges in Wisconsin has been that the legislature has been sitting on their collective hands since last March and did not take up the changes requested by local poll workers or election commission staff as a way to address concerns in advance.

To further add fuel to the flames, we have Assembly Speaker Robin Vos questioning the integrity of poll workers and election personnel because the statewide results didn’t match his worldview. Sadly he is not alone in spouting insane conspiracy theories.

There are many, otherwise rational, people who seem willing to accept that there is a vast national conspiracy at play. I feel comfortable using the word insane in describing this conspiracy theory because of the decentralization, transparency, and high integrity of individual poll works. These are people who are committed to ensuring the election process is done accurately and according to the rules. If any group had the power to influence such a complex process, it begs the question of why they would bother even pretending to have a cloak of legitimacy since they already would be able to do anything they wanted behind the scenes without the hassle of public scrutiny, and why would they focus solely on one race and ignore hundreds of others?

In science there is a concept called Occam’s Razor, basically it is that the simplest solution is most likely the correct one. For example, if your candidate got fewer votes, it is because a more voters favored someone else. It is time for the tinfoil hat brigade to stand down.

For all of our sakes, I hope these conspiracies are quickly dispelled and we can get on with moving America forward rather being stuck in the mud.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.