"But you can't," I told them. This is the most important election we've had in years. You can't just bow out. Their response: “But it depresses me to watch, they add.
So be depressed, but still pay attention.
A column in the NYT by Margaret Renkl put it more bluntly: “But ignoring what's wrong has never made anything right."
The trouble is that Nov. 3 not a singular event and that things will be over after Election Day. If Trump is elected, we will have four more years of chaos in the White House -- and maybe the end of democracy. If Biden is elected, we’ll have to wait to see how he does in handling the pandemic, the unemployment, climate change, and the insecure economy. One way or the other, the election will change the future of this country.
You say there's nothing you can do now, but there is. Which party controls the Senate will be critical during the next four years.
• Donate money to your favorite candidates in not just one, but also several states.
• Talk to your friends, particularly those who are undecided. They'll be more willing to accept views from someone they trust, rather than an unknown voice on the phone or a newspaper ad.
• Volunteer to work for your favorite candidates, not just one of the two presidential candidates.
Mail-in ballots -- that's a new partisan political predicament this year, ever since President Trump, without any facts backing him up, declared that the mail-in process is exposed to widespread fraud. On Labor Day, he claimed that more than 80 million ballots had been sent out to people who had not requested them.
For years, Californians have registered for mail-in ballots for all future elections. So count us out of your 80M, Trump. And in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, the mail-in system has not been thwarted for years.
I talked to Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, a Palo Alto resident, to see how he thought our Registrar of Voters office will handle the sending, receiving and counting of the ballots. That office has been uncomfortably late in counting ballots for years, with always some reason for the delay, but this county is usually far behind San Mateo County in tabulating the final results.
Simitian, who has been involved with overseeing the Registrar's Office in his supervisory role, told me the office "is complicated -- there are many different moving parts." He was referring not only to ballot counting, but compiling candidates' names and info for some 800 voting precincts in the county with several races (council, school boards, special districts) in each precinct.
Once the ballots are sent in, there are some problems with signature matches he said, particularly with elderly voters, whose writing looks wobblier than when they first registered. And some younger voters fail to sign the outside of their envelopes causing further difficulties, Simitian said.
When asked why it has taken so long to count the ballots in the past, he said "People are voting later now -- at the last minute", so most of the counting doesn't really start until Election Day.
Since 2018, he said, there have been several improvements in the Registrar's Office -- a larger staff, new voting technology, a new infrastructure system, decentralized voting centers, etc. State law mandates that ballots arriving 17 days after the election (postmarked by election day) must be counted.
But what if there are glitches? Will the supervisors oversee them and fix the problems?
"No," Simitian said, because the people would then perceive an elected body as interfering with votes.
I understand, so election officials should be developing contingency plans to ensure the counting is done quickly and accurately. But should there be goof-ups and malfunctioning of equipment or misplaced ballots, there is apparently no overseeing authority to correct what's going on except the Registrar's Office, where the errors may be occurring. And that worries me, given past history.
What I've learned, given the postal problems and the new untried equipment at the Registrar's Office, this year we must mail in our ballot early, like the first two weeks of Octoberr, so that our votes can be counted.
It's obvious: This is a critical election, so make sure to vote.