Move over, “Great British Bake Off” — my new favorite comfort-food television is watching the Philadelphia City Commissioners office’s livestream of election workers processing some of Pennsylvania’s millions of mail-in ballots.
Over the past 24 hours, I’ve kept the livestream playing in the background while I attempt to do anything remotely productive. Sometimes I look up and there’s a plot development: new workers show up, coffee in hand, or new batches of ballots arrive, ready to be unpacked.
But most of the time, there are simply rows of masked and socially distanced election workers at their tables, unfolding the ballots one by one.
Livestreaming ballot workers is a common practice that is meant to help demonstrate the transparency and integrity of the electoral process. Similar livestreams are being shown in counties and municipalities across the country, including Maricopa County, Arizona; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Denver, Colorado; and Washoe County, Nevada. Sometimes, a wide shot allows viewers to see the entire convention center or gymnasium. Other times, they get a peek into the process through multiple angles.
In past elections, the cynic in me would bristle whenever cable news networks would cut to some live footage of election workers processing ballots, seemingly to fill time during their neverending Election Day coverage. (It was usually either that or a five-person panel needlessly speculating over any tiny scrap of new information about the race.)
But during an election with far too many sources of anxiety — including how the president of the United States has dangerously suggested that the electoral process is rigged and has repeatedly claimed that he will challenge the results — there’s something oddly soothing and pleasant about watching people diligently perform the same task over and over again. It’s a little piece of regularity amid the chaos of this dumpster fire of a year.
Given that Pennsylvania is not expected to report its voting results until Thursday or Friday because state officials were not permitted to begin counting mail-in and absentee ballots until Tuesday morning, it’s probably not healthy to keep nervously checking for updates.
So if you’re looking for a brief respite from stress-eating, doomscrolling through Twitter, refreshing state election websites and mapping out potential 269-269 Electoral College scenarios, take a second to breathe, hydrate and watch democracy in action.