Election Day is when the politicians stop, while citizens and professional public servants get to work

2 minute read

By Stephen Van Dine, Senior Vice-President, Public Governance

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Today, millions of Americans who did not exercise their franchise in advance polls or mail in ballots – get to send their message back to the politicians as to who they want to run the country. The Nation and the world is watching closely and counting on professional, non-partisan public servants to collect record and tabulate of these ballots fairly, timely and transparently. To say a lot is riding on this process going well is a severe understatement.

Guns sales are through the roof across America among all demographic groups. Taking to the streets to either protest or counter protest are events that are more mainstream today than days of the civil rights movement. Fueling the flames of unrest are unprecedented misinformation campaigns from both foreign and domestic sources.

Unlike Canada, which relies on Elections Canada to steward our federal elections, the United States relies on the collection of state election bodies to perform the task. State public servants have been planning, procuring and mobilizing for most the year to be ready for today. They have done so in a global pandemic. They have done so during misinformation on the integrity of their systems and competence. They have done so with an activist judiciary who has been pronouncing seemingly on an hourly basis to adjust the guidepost of fairness and the rule of law. And they have done so with a sitting President who signed an Executive Order on October 21, 2020 – on the eve of the Election - …”to eliminate due process protections for many federal employees, making them easier to fire” according to Forbes magazine.

As a former Canadian senior public servant, I have strong confidence in the values and the integrity of my southern colleagues to serve their citizens with professionalism and a strong sense of duty despite the apparent challenges. Why? Because public service remains one of the highest callings as a profession. To serve and contribute to quality of life and the community we live in means more than personal gain derived economic measures alone. And the principles of “Good Governance” – are the foundation in which liberal democratic countries hold dear in providing a stable environment with which to build an economy and ensure the public is well served. The Institute on Governance defines governance in a straightforward manner as “how society or groups within it, organize to make decisions.” The Institute has elaborated five principles of Good Governance that include Legitimacy (and voice), Direction (Strategic Vision), Performance, Accountability and Fairness. Today, society needs poll captains and election officials to serve with professionalism and integrity so that regardless of the outcome – it is objectively, and dispassionately legitimate. The calling for public service has never been louder.

About the author

Institute on Governance

Institute on Governance

Founded in 1990, the Institute on Governance (IOG) is an independent, Canada-based, not-for-profit public interest institution with its head office in Ottawa and an office in Toronto. Our mission is ‘advancing better governance in the public interest,’ which we accomplish by exploring, developing and promoting the principles, standards and practices which underlie good governance in the public sphere, both in Canada and abroad.

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