The writer E.B. White observed that democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. He wrote those words in 1943, when the United States was engulfed in the existential struggle of World War II.
The country faces another crisis today. It may seem overblown to compare the COVID-19 pandemic to World War II, but the comparison may understate the case. In just the first 10 months of the pandemic, we have lost more than half the number of Americans killed in nearly four years of that war. It is more than possible that the pandemic will prove the greater killer in the end.
White's observations about democracy were comforting because they affirmed a core belief about the American identity at a time when the country felt threatened. The affirmation offers similar comfort today. We may be in crisis, but Election Day is still Election Day, and today we'll do what Americans do.
Judging from the numbers, people are ready and eager. Early voters around the country have already cast more than two-thirds as many ballots as in the entire 2016 presidential election. In Minnesota, the number of early ballots cast amounts to more than half of the total votes cast in 2016. We trust that enough voters will go to the polls today to continue the state's proud tradition of posting the nation's highest turnout.
But they should remember that while their state is No. 1 in voting, it's also among the states with higher rates of COVID infections. It's up to every voter to help make polling places as safe as possible by wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and trying to vote during nonpeak hours, such as midmorning. Anyone with symptoms can have a ballot brought to their car, and those in quarantine can have a ballot brought to their home.
For all the anxiety expressed about the voting process this year, it remains reassuringly familiar. The first step is to register; Minnesota continues to offer same-day registration. Next, confirm your polling place, which is subject to change from one election to the next; it's available on the secretary of state's website, sos.state.mn.us. You'll also find a sample ballot tailored to your address, as well as instructions for curbside and quarantine voting.
Your employer must allow you time to vote. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and if there's a line, you can vote as long as you're in it by closing time. You don't need to bring an ID, unless you're planning to register at the polls. You shouldn't wear campaign buttons or other political paraphernalia while you're there.
Elections officials (and a public-service announcement by four Minnesota governors) urge civility and patience this year. The wait for results may be long, and legal challenges could make the wait even longer. Democracy is often messy. Waiting for the votes to be counted may be excruciating — but it will be easier if you know that yours is among them.
If you'd like to review the Star Tribune Editorial Board's endorsements, go to tinyurl.com/2020-endorse.