Splaine: On Tuesday, thank your poll workers. They are democracy's heroes – Seacoastonline.com

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I have seen lots of elections, and through the years have met hundreds of election workers as I have gone to the polls. The very first time I voted was Tuesday, September 10, 1968 when I walked into the then Portsmouth Community Center on Daniel Street, the voting location of Ward 5 at that time.  
I remember it well because just 34 days earlier I had become old enough to vote, and I was on the ballot as a candidate for N.H. State Representative.  After voting, I stood in front of the building meeting hundreds of Portsmouth residents who came to experience their own moment of democracy.
Voting is an experience each of us can have this coming Tuesday, and our neighbors who work at the polls administering our elections make it possible for us.  As we go into our polling place most of us will know some of the workers because they are indeed our neighbors. Our New Hampshire elections are run by local residents, not by out-of-town state officials.    
Conspiracy theories abound, even in our state, and our election workers – our neighbors – face threats. Polls indicate that too many people distrust our election process and question whether their vote matters and will be properly counted. When people lack confidence in the election process itself, democracy suffers.  
Democracy is guaranteed only as long as we fight for it. Our rights are only assured when we stand up for them. As we have learned during the past few years, both our democracy, and our rights in our democracy, are at serious risk. Not just from outside forces or foreign governments, but from within.  
Our neighbors who work at the polls are also at risk. We have all heard stories of threats to election workers in virtually every state, and intimidation has resulted in some election workers giving up their duties because of the possibility of violence. Some election workers have had their home addresses and telephone numbers posted in conspiracy social media websites.  
With the realization that we need to enhance voter turnout and protect our democracy, Secretary of State David Scanlan created a bi-partisan group to learn about concerns people have about our election process.  His “Special Committee on Voter Confidence” has been on a statewide tour to fulfill the mission he assigned: “The Special Committee on Voter Confidence will work to identify root causes of voter confidence decline and make recommendations to reverse the trend.”
The Committee has eight members, including myself. This past week the group finished a series of statewide hearings that included Concord, Laconia, Derry, Berlin, Nashua, Keene, and Portsmouth. The Committee meets later this month in Manchester to begin a dialogue as we create a report addressing how voter confidence may be improved in future elections. We have heard from hundreds of citizens at the hearings, and by telephone calls and many emails sent to us with diverse viewpoints. And yes, we have heard firsthand about how conspiracy theories can spread, causing injury to our way of life.   
At the Keene hearing this past week, an election worker spoke of threats and vulgar language thrown her way. Working at the polls in times like these is a tough job, and it’s good that we have courageous neighbors willing to stand up for democracy when it matters. This coming Tuesday, starting early in the morning they will be greeting you as you enter. They will be your neighbors, giving you the ballot you will use, and then they will count it after the polls close.  
For them, it will be a long day. They are paid less than a cashier or bagger at your favorite supermarket. Why? Because they care.      
On Tuesday, thank your poll workers. Just say “thank you.” They are democracy’s heroes. And they’re there to serve you. And to save our country. 
Today’s Quotes: “The most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill, is that of private citizen.” — Louis Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice.  
“Voting is the only way to ensure that your concerns matter. Period.” — Michelle Obama.
Next time: Bob Sullivan’s Excellent Adventures. 
Jim Splaine has served variously since 1969 as Portsmouth assistant mayor, Police Commissioner, and School Board member, as well as N.H. state senator and representative. He can be reached at jimsplaineportsmouth@gmail.com


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