Ballot-Counting Live Streams Show the Invisible Labor Behind Democracy

The votes don't count themselves.
November 4, 2020, 2:56pm
Ballot counters in Philadelphia
Screenshot: Youtube

If you think it will help whatever election-related anxieties you may need help with, several counties across the country are live-streaming the ballot-counting process. I've personally been popping in and out of Philadelphia's stream this morning, but there are many others to choose from, as Bloomberg reported.

The counties opted to do this, according to Bloomberg, for transparency reasons and to foster trust in the ballot-counting process. I'm skeptical it will achieve that goal, as the people most interested in sewing discord about election returns are not doing so with any degree of intellectual honesty. 

But the live streams accomplish another, if perhaps unintended, goal. It demonstrates just how much invisible labor goes into counting ballots.

As I write this, there are two- or three-dozen people in Philadelphia wearing yellow vests passing ballots to one another, writing things down, clicking and typing on computers. In the background, manager-looking types are walking to and fro, speaking to various people. There are people working to count the votes that will likely be disputed by Republicans, adjudicated in some form or fashion by the courts, and baselessly condemned as fraudulent by a few unsavory figures on the Right who, in all likelihood, never bothered to figure out how any of this works. 

This year has been an important year for taking notice of invisible or generally underappreciated labor, all the "essential workers" who stock grocery store shelves before opening, clean and staff our hospitals, drive the buses and trains, sort and deliver our mail. But by the end of 2020, there may be no worker more essential than the ones tallying votes.

There are currently 11,811 viewers on this live stream, attesting to the fact that 2020 has been a turning point in making invisible labor a little closer to view.