Belief in democracy keeps election workers going in the face of criticism

Posted at 5:42 PM, Oct 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-04 18:42:24-04

MCLENNAN COUNTY, TX — Election officers have come under more pressure lately then ever before.

With all the talk of fake news and rigged elections, it's a wonder anybody wants the job.

But election workers stick with it and roll with numerous punches every election cycle because they believe in the American political system and the American way of life.

"Why do I do this? This is my passion, this is what I love to do," said McLennan County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe.

Van Wolfe will call it quits at the end of next month, after one of her hardest years on the job, ever.

"Because we didn't really have any break in between this constant going into the next election. COVID was a whole new set of rules as to how to deal with voting in person increased our ballot by mail that we normally see," she said.

And yet somehow, she and her staff manage to keep smiling, and helping.

"These guys are friendly I can tell they're working their hardest right now to really just get everything and get it done. They've got piles and stacks and they're working very very hard to get it done and keeping a good attitude about it," said Chelsea Macias, a Waco voter

That's not always an easy thing to do when everybody second-guesses every move you make.

First, COVID got them off track.

Then came orders from a judge's bench changing ballots across the state, just about to hit the post office.

McLennan election workers took it in stride.

"With us trying to be two steps ahead by getting our ballots ready, we were a little bit behind because we had to redo everything and it took us about a week to play catch up because of the light change," said Van Wolfe.

"Then it's check and re-check and check again, no one here can afford a mistake. And it's all a checks and balance and we try to have as much checks and balances in place as possible because we want to make sure that everything is checked and rechecked and retested," she said.

Because American democracy depends on good, clean elections.

"We have to be very very detail oriented. So trying to get all those ducks in a row and make sure that we have all of our eyes dotted and our T's crossed to make sure that we can have a good fair clean election with everything done, usually takes lots of time. We don't have a whole lot of time because all these deadlines are coming, they're all mandated by law, and we have to meet them regardless of what happened," she said.

And with changes forced on it by judges, election workers then have to explain that to a public that often doesn't want to hear it.

"With each change, the voter themselves is concerned. 'I want to make sure it counts, I want to make sure it's right. How can you reassure me that?' she said.

The concern is real, as voters will tell you.

"I would rather pay the money and be able to have a ballot that's accurate. I understand and I'm going to pay taxes anyways, so I want an accurate ballot and I want a fair ballot and that's important to me," said Chelsea.

And it's important to election workers, who see themselves as the vehicle that makes democracy possible.

"I've never wanted to run for office and I've never wanted to be on the parade float waving at the crowd and kissing the babies and hugging the children, but I feel like we're the people, underneath the float pushing it down the parade route," said Van Wolfe.

Democracy doesn't happen in a vacuum. Everyone here works their hardest to make sure we have a voice in our future.

”You have to believe in the system and you have to be here for the right reasons to be able to do a good job,” said Van Wolfe.