Doug Geib isn’t going into completely unfamiliar territory next week when he travels to Albania to serve as an elections monitor.
Geib, voter registrar for Rockingham County, visited the former communist nation in 1996, when it was holding its second presidential election since the socialist state dissolved in 1991.
Around that time, Geib had been working part time as a government teacher at Turner Ashby High School, and he decided to take a six-month job in Albania teaching children of American missionaries.
“There was a lot of anxiety over the elections,” said Geib, 49, of Rockingham County, who has been the voter registrar for five years. “People that were abused during the communist era did not want to see life return to the way it had been.”
On Tuesday, Geib will leave the United States to return to the southeastern European country to observe national parliamentary elections.
He was selected to be part of an international delegation of 400 election monitors through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Geib is one of 20 monitors from the U.S. This will be his first time as an international elections monitor.
The delegation will meet in the Albanian capital of Tirana on Thursday for debriefing.
From there, monitors will be assigned to a location where they will observe the June 23 election.
Monitors are tasked with observing and reporting on what they see.
“Our assignment is not to … interrupt what’s happening on election day,” he said.
Geib said he does not yet know where in Albania he will be stationed or what the voting process will be like, for example if there will be voting machines or all paper ballots.
Poll workers may need to count ballots manually, meaning it could be a long night.
“They have warned us to be prepared for no sleep for 24 hours,” Geib said.
Safety is always a concern when traveling to “unstable nations,” he said, but Geib doesn’t anticipate having any problems.
“[Albania] doesn’t have a history of violence on Election Day,” he said. “It’s something I’m aware of, but I’m not too concerned about it.”
He is looking forward to seeing the changes since he was there 17 years ago, as well as how the Albanians handle elections relative to U.S. electoral practices.
When he returns, Geib plans to relate stories of what he saw to people at home to give them some perspective.
“Even though there might be some grumbling about the way things happen,” he said, “if people knew how things happen in other countries, they appreciate more what they have here.”
Published June 17, 2013, courtesy Daily News Record