Where America comes together
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: The “Miracle at Philadelphia” in 1787 that resulted in our enduring Constitution, united a fractured country struggling to find trust in its government, balance individual freedoms with national sovereignty, establish checks and balances through three branches of government, and find middle ground between small states and large states. When asked: “What type of government have you given us?” Ben Franklin replied, “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.” Those words echo through the centuries, and strike at the heart of today’s divided America.
Charleston, West Virginia: Franklin’s Constitutional Convention compatriot, George Washington, grew up surveying the lands of Appalachia in what is present-day West Virginia. Those years of western exploration imbued Washington with military prowess, enabling him to one day lead a fledgling Continental Army to victory over the most powerful force on Earth, the British Army. Ultimately, Washington was unanimously elected the first President of the United States of America.
Today, it is appropriate for state election officials in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania and the Mountain State of West Virginia to join forces to make sure we keep the republic which Franklin and Washington worked so hard to give us.
In our roles as chief election officers for our states, politics goes away. Foremost in our minds is maintaining the security and integrity of elections, as well as maintaining voters’ confidence in the election process from registration, to voting, to tabulation and certification. Yet, the explosion of technology — social media in particular — has challenged America in ways Ben Franklin never could have imagined. Some people claim America has never been as divided as it is today, and the hostile tenor of today’s political discourse gives credence to such claims. That is why organic efforts are springing forth to return civility to American politics, and Pennsylvania and West Virginia are helping lead that effort.
With Election 2020 upon us, residents will soon be flooded with information on voter registration, polling locations, voting dates and deadlines, and absentee or mail-in ballot applications. Social media and individuals alike can now create and share content at a rapid pace, accurate or not. Consider that a small error, like tweeting that a polling place closes at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m., could prevent eligible people from voting. Misinformation (unintentional) and disinformation (intentionally bad information) that is formed easily and goes viral quickly have become major threats to our democratic system. The consequence diminishes confidence in our democracy.
Please remember that county election officials and secretaries of state are your trusted sources for election information. We refer you to #TrustedInfo2020, a nonpartisan initiative providing credible election information directly from election officials, and to state-specific information at votesPA.com and at GoVoteWV.com. With proper information, and a civil approach to politics, we can do like the Founding Fathers did over 200 years ago: unite this country, balance security with human freedom, and restore trust in government.
The Mason-Dixon line marks the boundary between Pennsylvania and West Virginia and is widely considered the demarcation between north and south. But, when it comes to elections, think of it as a seam of glue, holding the United States together. A bond was formed between the people, the land, and the idea of freedom during our Revolution. The bond whereby government exists to protect our inalienable rights was forever etched into our Constitution in Philadelphia. There is no north and south, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, or left and right when it comes to running free and fair elections, the cornerstone of our Republic.
Pennsylvania and West Virginia have joined forces to protect the integrity of our democracy and keep it forever for our posterity. This is where America comes together.
Kathy Boockvar is Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth and Mac Warner is West Virginia Secretary of State.