The Big Success Story of the Election Is the One You Didn’t Hear

Poll workers load voting data for tabulation at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections Headquarters, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Lawrenceville, near Atlanta.

Poll workers load voting data for tabulation at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections Headquarters, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Lawrenceville, near Atlanta. AP Photo/John Bazemore

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

COMMENTARY | Government employees were the unsung heroes of the voting process.

The central story of the 2020 election was the one you heard over the weekend: Joe Biden was declared the winner and is president-elect of the United States

But it was the story you probably didn’t see, hear or read that was at least as impressive: At all levels of government, dedicated, patriotic civil servants and local volunteers made sure the election went off without significant disruption. 

Biden acknowledged as much in his victory speech Saturday night. "To all those who volunteered, worked the polls in the middle of this pandemic, local election officials—you deserve a special thanks from this nation."

They’re not the only ones owed a debt of gratitude: There were the U.S. cyber operators who went on the offensive against Iranian hackers seeking to meddle in the election. The postal workers who moved mountains to deliver millions of mail-in ballots in time to be counted. The local officials who worked tirelessly in the weeks before the election to swat down misinformation. And many more. 

The election, indeed, was characterized by what did not occur: There were no significant problems with mail-in ballots, voting went off mostly without a hitch, no violent protests broke out, foreign governments neither succeeded in mounting effective disinformation campaigns or in hacking election systems, and there was no attempt to misuse government authority to interfere with the vote count.

What you didn’t see over the last week (except in occasional glimpses of ballot counters at work) was a vast network of government workers doing their jobs not for a lucrative payday but out of a commitment to public service. 

The result was a multitude of bad things that didn’t happen. The dog didn’t bark.

In the Biden administration, you’re not likely to hear as much as you have in the last four years about bureaucrats, the deep state and the swamp. That’s not because government employees embrace Democrats and work to undermine Republican presidents. Nor is it because government workers have a perfect performance record. It’s because government by and large was, is, and will be working the way it’s supposed to.

Tom Shoop is executive vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees editorial operations at Government Executive, Nextgov, Defense One and Route Fifty. 

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