You have not heard this story about Tuesday’s election.
In all likelihood, you have read reports and heard the headlines about the results from Tuesday’s election. Many predictions came true, but others were way off. Some candidates easily won who were supposed to have had a tough election and others who were supposed to be beaten did better than projected. All this is true. But something else was true. [read_more]To secure the blessings of Liberty and the American Dream, our founding fathers wanted ordinary citizens to safeguard the ballot process. They gave this duty to the States, and the Commonwealth of Virginia gave it to me.
Seven election officers along with a Chief and an Assistant Chief were assigned to facilitate the precinct’s Election Day activities. To ensure integrity in the voting process, Fairfax County Election Board requires that the officers represent both political parties and that the Chief and Assistant Chief are not from the same party. We were not there supporting a political candidate, but instead where there to secure the blessings of free and fair elections.
Throughout the day, these officers worked together seamlessly ensuring properly screened voters, in accordance with the new Voter I.D. laws, were able to cast a ballot. Nobody was turned away or disenfranchised due to the I.D. requirement. In fact, only one voter did not have a valid I.D. and she was appropriately permitted to cast a Provisional Ballot.
Then something spectacular happened.
As Chief, it was my responsibility to run the “tape” at the end of the day and to have it certified as correct and true. The machine that scanned the ballots printed the results (like a long receipt you get at the grocery store). Virginia law mandates results be certified with the signature of two officers, one representing the Republican Party and the other representing the Democratic Party. The certified tape is then turned into the Electoral Board and the votes collected at the precinct are counted.
To keep the process transparent, I had all of the officers present when the tape was printed. That’s when it happened.
Ms. Shiaze legally immigrated to the U.S. ten years ago and just this year became a U.S. citizen. Remembering how elections were held in her native Pakistan, she wanted to participate in the elections of her new country. At age 35, she was proud to participate in the first free and fair elections in her lifetime.
I was honored to tell her story to the rest of the officers. After declaring the political party she represented, I asked, “Ms. Shiaze, as an official representative of your party, will you please sign the tape?”
In an awkward silence and with great reverence, she stepped forward, took the pen I gave her and stood over the tape. She hesitated. Looked at me. Looked down at the tape. She looked back at me and with a warm smile I indicated that it was time to sign. With a deliberate motion, the pen started to move along the paper. There was no telling what was going through her mind. There was no indication of what had happened in her past. But with a bright smile on her face and tears welling in her eyes, she permanently affixed her signature on the official ballot tape.
Next, I called Mr. Kim. He declared that he represented the other party, and I asked him to step forward. As he did, I shared with the team that Mr. Kim fought in the Korean War and he too was now a U.S. citizen.
With two signatures on the ballot tape, we sealed our honor that the results were correct and true. But the moment was too precious to pass. “Are there any other officers who would like to sign?” Another officer stepped forward. A black woman proudly accepted my pen as she testified with her signature, then a white gentleman followed her.
We were not Pakistani, or Koreans, or Africans. We were not black or white. We were not male or female. We were Virginians protecting the American Dream.
Liberty won Tuesday at my precinct.