NOTE: This piece is part of a collection of local essays on elections and trust.

The foundation of participation in public elections in our nation is built upon the bedrock of trust, a trust based in openness, transparency, and accountability. This trust is preserved when voters believe the election was conducted with fairness and integrity. Fair or unfair, we have witnessed in recent years how quickly that trust can be diminished when assertions are made questioning whether the publicly stated election outcome is valid. Any allegations of election fraud or irregularities, whether true or untrue, are not only disconcerting but cannot be ignored. 

Following both the 2016 and 2020 General Elections, voters of differing political views have questioned whether the certified election outcomes are truly an accurate representation of how voters cast their ballots on Election Day. As the chief election official for Greene County, I welcome and appreciate that question knowing that one of the hallmarks of freedom is the right to question and hold your public officials accountable. Indeed, this accountability is set forth when elected officials swear an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Missouri. I take my oath of office seriously each time I certify an election as an accurate and true account of the votes cast. 

That is why my confidence in certifying an election for our county is not based on blind trust but rather anchored in adhering to the statutory process in our state law prescribing elections to be conducted in a bipartisan manner. Bipartisan certification teams test each piece of tabulation election equipment to ensure it is correctly tabulating each cast ballot before certifying the election equipment for Election Day. Bipartisan election judge teams check-in voters prior to handing them their ballot in their polling place. After the election, bipartisan teams audit the election equipment to verify it worked correctly on Election Day. In the statutory post-election audit, bipartisan teams manually recount cast ballots from no less than 5 percent of randomly drawn precincts to confirm the election tabulation equipment tabulated without error the day of the election. This all takes place prior to the certification of the election to ensure the certified outcome is accurate to the actual votes cast. 

The preamble to the U.S. Constitution begins with three simple words, “We the People….” Those three simple words bind us together. Free and fair elections reaffirm not only our independence but also our trust. The best way for that trust to continue is by “We the People” participating in the whole elections process as empowered by the laws of our state. 

Shane Schoeller | Guest author

Shane Schoeller, County Clerk for Greene County, Missouri; former Republican member of the Missouri House of Representatives