Brow Beat

The Philadelphia Vote-Counting Livestream Is the Perfect Boring Thing to Soothe Your Nerves

Just a bunch of poll works, sitting in line, doing tedious dull work
Sing, O muse, of the dullness of our democratic machinery. Screengrab from YouTube

With the exception of Dixville Notch, we won’t be getting hard data on the election results until the polls start to close, and even then, a full count will take days, and possibly longer. But rather than bite your nails all day, you can take some amount of solace in watching the machinery of democracy at work. In Pennsylvania, where 2.2 million ballots were cast in advance of Election Day, the counting has already begun, and you can watch the process live on a stream set up by the Philadelphia City Commissioner’s Office.

Given that Philadelphia is a blue stronghold in a swing state that may well decide the election, Republicans have been seeking to undermine the integrity of the city’s votes for months, with Donald Trump claiming that “bad things happen” in the city and right-wing commentators filling Twitter with alleged accounts of electoral malfeasance. But on the stream, the counting goes on unperturbed, and watching it is strangely soothing. The bins go back and forth; envelopes are opened and paper sorted. The biggest disruption is when a counter takes a brief break to stretch out their back.

It’s boring, of course, but in a comforting way, a way that reminds us that a functioning government ought to be something we don’t even have to think about, just mesmerize in its mechanical steadiness. On a day when it’s tempting (and sometimes called for) to freak out, this is the opposite, just the narcotic evenness of democracy at work.