ELAINE MARSHALL: From dust of insurrection, Constitution still stands

Posted January 16, 2021 7:36 a.m. EST
Updated January 16, 2021 7:39 a.m. EST

N.C. Secretary of State presides over the 2016 meeting of the N.C.Electoral College (Photo: N.C. Secretary of State)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Elaine Marshall has been North Carolina's Secretary of State since 1997.

As an elected official, a public servant and most importantly an American citizen, I have a hard time putting into words my feelings about what we all witnessed last week at the U.S. Capitol.

While Washington, D.C. is a few hundred miles away, it felt like it was happening on our very doorstep. That’s because this nation was founded on the ideals of “We the People.”

While peaceful protest is a right we hold dear, the physical assault on our elected officials and others dedicated to serve and protect was not just an assault on a public building and its occupants, but on our democracy. This is deeply personal to each of us.

To our law enforcement, National Guard, and others called to duty on this day to protect the public—my sincere gratitude for your service and dedication.

By law, as North Carolina’s Secretary of State, I have had the distinct privilege to serve as the host of the North Carolina Electoral College the last six times it has convened. As a statewide elected Democrat serving as host, I have fully respected the will of the people who have supported a Republican presidential nominee in five of those six elections.

Electoral College meeting in NC uneventful

Each event has been steeped with the honor and distinction this pivotal part of the national presidential election process merits, and always with the tone of unity that must bring our citizens together after the voting is done.

I’m proud that the Secretary of State’s office has treated the Electoral College with the respect and reverence that it richly deserves. No matter our personal views, we have always honored this proud history of citizens peacefully passing on presidential power.

Each of my staff colleagues who have helped with these historic transitions has the same commitment to our democratic institutions.

In fact, you can see for yourself on our website where the last three Electoral College videos are archived. Make no mistake though; what we witnessed last week around constitutionally required Electoral College activities in Washington was not peaceful.

There was death, destruction, fighting, and fear. As a public servant charged with hosting North Carolina’s Electoral College in Raleigh just three weeks ago, the rhetoric and threats following this election forced us to fear and prepare for just such an insurrection as we witnessed in our nation’s Capital. My reactions on seeing our worst fears become reality ran the gamut---grief, anxiety, anger, sadness, and shock.

While many of these feelings have not subsided, as the dawn broke on America and North Carolina the following day, a gleam of hope started to filter in. The Department that I administer is a relatively small but crucial agency of public servants; sometimes we believe our circle of impact is minor.

However, every ripple of kindness and respect for our colleagues and our fellow citizens can result in a wave of goodwill and trust in our institutions. Each of these actions, while seemingly insignificant, is important as we continue to build a stronger State and a more perfect Union.

Out of one of our darkest days, a commitment to positive actions and outcomes must prevail. I encourage my fellow elected colleagues to join me in this commitment.

For more than 200 years, our Constitution and our democratic institutions have faced immense challenges. One of those violent occasions happened this week.

As we remember this moment in history, let us also remember that at daybreak our democracy, our institutions, our Constitution still stand.

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