More than 600,000 West Virginians cast their ballot in the 2012 General Election. Almost all of them went into the polling place thinking about which candidate would get their vote – not that they may need to say thank you to those who made it possible for them to vote that day.
There are many problems that could possibly arise for election officials as they prepare for Election Day: a machine could break down and need replaced, poll workers could get sick and not be able to come in, or there could be problems with the heat at a particular precinct. All of these problems are routine; election officials are able to solve these problems quickly.
But this Election Day, election officials around West Virginia were faced with a challenge none of them had ever faced before: How to administer Early Voting as the remnants of a hurricane dumped several feet of snow on top of them. They also had to think about Election Day and what precincts would be impossible to open and how to make sure the citizens of our state have access to open, free, and honest elections.
The job done by local election officials was nothing short of superhuman. They made bold contingency plans with the best interest of the voters in mind.
The effort of the National Guard was simply awe inspiring. These men and women were there when their state needed them. They provided tents that would serve as temporary polling places, provided heat and electricity to those tents, and were standing by to make sure poll workers would be able to get to their assigned precinct.
Emergency crews and Department of Highways crews worked around the clock plowing snow and clearing roads of fallen trees.
Power company crews worked tirelessly restoring power to our homes and to the buildings that served as polling places.
It was a team effort of which everyone in West Virginia should be proud. I know I certainly am.
There are days when we all feel uniquely and proudly American: Veterans Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and that’s just to name a few. There are other things about being American that makes us all proud: neighbor helping neighbor and a determination to make things happen in the face of adversity.
This Election Day, another day when we all feel uniquely and proudly American, showed the best of us all. From local election officials and the National Guard to emergency crews and power company workers, we all came together knowing that our democracy faced a threat from this weather system. Would people be able to vote? Would our polling places open?
These citizens, who do what they do because it must be done and not for attention, made it possible for the rest of us to make our voice heard on Election Day.
And for that I sincerely say, “Thank you.”
— Natalie E. Tennant
West Virginia Secretary of State