This past Friday and Saturday, I had the opportunity to spend several hours at the Sussex County election office in Georgetown, acting as an observer of the opening process of ballots which were mailed or emailed in or were delivered to the drop-off box. This is my report.

Upon receipt, each envelope was logged in and inspected to be sure it was intact and had the voter’s signature, and was carefully opened. The ballot was removed, unfolded, and inspected for stray marks, physical damage, or anything that might interfere with scanning, was put through the scanner for recording of the votes, then was placed in storage for retrieval in case it becomes necessary.

All this was done by teams of evenly matched Republicans and Democrats. If any question arose about the readability of a ballot, the supervisor was consulted, and appropriate measures were taken immediately to make the voter’s choices accessible to the scanner whenever possible. The scanner had no connection to the internet, and its recording is safeguarded every step of the way to the eventual counting on Election Day.

At each step of the process, I was impressed by its transparency and professionalism and by the meticulous attention to protocol and detail in order to make sure that every vote counts. The staff thoroughly explained the process and answered any questions about it that I or other observers posed.

If you plan to vote by mail or drop-off and have not yet done so, here are some pointers: do it now; don’t make any marks or comments on the ballot except filling in the circles of your choices and (if you choose to do so) the name of the write in candidate you want; be sure to enclose the ballot in the envelope; sign the envelope.

All in all, I feel very reassured that in Sussex County the system for handling the early voting ballots is sound and will deliver valid results. This is of course dependent upon the exceptional Sussex County elections staff of professionals and volunteers dedicated to assuring that this is a process we all can trust. Thanks!

Jeanette Akhter