Democracy in action

Published 6:10 pm Friday, June 18, 2010

It’s one of the most remarkable things about the United States of America but yet something most of us take for granted.

Every so often, American voters–even if a smaller percentage than we would like–show up at their polling location and cast their vote for the candidate of their choice for various national, state and local offices.

But every time we cast a ballot, we should remember that not everyone in the world is so fortunate. Many countries don’t allow their citizens to vote, and many of those that do allow some semblance of a democratic process see their elections marred by controversy.

People are bullied at polls or simply not allowed to enter if they’re considered likely to vote against those in power. Ballots are lost or miscounted. Sometimes, the loser of an election refuses to admit defeat and simply stays in office. Other times, a military might declare itself the de facto government.

Try to imagine such a scenario here in the United States. We should all be glad such a scene does not come easily into our minds.

Sure, we’ve had controversies. Florida’s hanging chads comes to mind. For the most part, though, U.S. elections are conducted without incident.

An example is the statewide recounts this week of ballots cast in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Tim James was edged on June 1 by Robert Bentley for second place in the race–and the right to a runoff with Bradley Byrne.

The scene at the Chilton County courthouse during our recount was a picture of democracy in action. Probate Judge Bobby Martin oversaw an operation that included seven experienced poll workers, an inspector, two representatives from the Chilton County Republican Party and one poll watcher from the Bentley campaign.

By all accounts, the recount went smoothly and resulted in a minor change to the county’s official tally.

After all Alabama counties have completed their recounts, the state Republican Party will have its candidate for the runoff with Byrne. Whomever finishes third might not be happy, but he won’t take to the streets, gathering a mob for a march on Montgomery.

Unlike most of the world, our country’s democratic process is a beautiful thing.