The president of the United States, when asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the election, refused to concede to one of our most cherished norms in our United States.
That is the time-tested process of a peaceful transfer of power beginning with public concession after the people have spoken with their vote, the codification of that concession in the electoral college, the parallel motion of governance in the interim with the transition process, all culminating at the inauguration as prescribed in the constitution on 20 January at high noon.
How many of us, watching an inauguration, or news report, have heard a reporter, anchor, commentator, boast of his or her United States by drawing reference to dictatorships in history by pointing out that the United States stands apart from those countries of lesser freedoms. What elevates us and sets us apart is always, always has been and will forever be the peaceful transfer of power after an election.
But before that peaceful transfer of power in this United States, there is a uniquely democratic process set in motion days, weeks, months, and yes even years prior to Jan. 20.
That is the United States system of voting — one woman or man, with one vote apiece is the bedrock that protects us from anarchy.
Just as the peaceful transfer of power is built on a bedrock of the election process, so the election process is built on its own foundation. And that foundation is trust. The people’s trust of the process and by extension, the acceptance of the results.
Today that trust is under attack. And no, I’m not speaking of the mischief which foreign disruptors inject into social media. I’m speaking of a threat much closer to home. A threat that we invited in and that we gave the power to disrupt.
The internal threat toward our trust of the electoral process is none other than the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
For months now the president has cast doubt on our tried and true system of the transfer of power by using descriptors such as “rigged,” “unfair,” “disaster” to slowly and methodically inject doubt into the voter’s minds that there was somehow, some way, a cloaked and nefarious process afoot. All in an attempt to erode trust. He even quipped recently, “get rid of the ballots, there won’t be a transfer, frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”
I will have none of it. Not in my state. Not in Ohio.
I know this business. I served on the Shelby County Board of Elections for 12 years prior to March of 2019. Over half of that time as chair. I know this system and I know its strengths and its safeguards. It is a solid system — it is a dependable system – and I will not have it attacked by anyone, much less the president of the United States.
And what is the core strength of Ohio’s registration system, our absentee voting, early in-person voting, election-day voting, the post-election tabulating, and the final certification process?
Its people. Those responsibilities are divided up among thousands of trusted Ohio patriots. People like you and me board of election members, directors, deputy directors, clerks, voting location managers, and precinct election officials.
Mr. President, if you or your army of disruptors come after the integrity of the election system in Ohio, you gotta get through these people first. Because they are going to continue to do their jobs every day to ensure voters are educated; registered to vote; given the opportunity to be a poll worker; given the opportunity to vote early; vote absentee; or vote in person.
And finally, they are going to ensure the vote count of absentee, early voting and election-day voting are reported out accurately by Nov. 24 as prescribed by law.
On behalf of my fellow Operation Grant leadership, here’s my message to Ohio voters.
Don’t let Donald J. Trump undermine your trust in your most sacred right as an American — and that is the sanctity of your vote.
Christopher Gibbs is a farmer and team leader at Operation Grant (https://www.operationgrant.org). He is president of Rural America 2020 and is former GOP and Board of Elections chair for Shelby County, Ohio.