The Changing Face of Election Day


As I waited for County Clerk Lisa Greer and her staff to check in the final precinct officers of the evening and get a final tally for Tuesday’s Primary Election, I reminisced about the past.

On Tuesday, the few members of the press who were on duty for the election sat at a table in the courthouse annex basement and listened as election board member Ricky Collins read off each precinct total.
Actually, we talked more than listened, because when it was all said and done, Greer and her staff would be able to print us anything we needed.

Today’s technology allows the clerk’s office to print precinct by precinct totals or countywide totals.
Gone are the days when we had to be ready with pen in hand and a copy of the ballot to write down totals from absentees and each of the 16 precincts. Also gone are the days when members of the community hung out at the annex to see how their candidate fared.

I remember doing some quick math to see who was leading in key races such as the county judge executive or sheriff, only for another precinct total to come in and put a stop to the effort. It was difficult, but it was fun. Mostly, it was exciting as the election results unfolded right before your eyes, precinct by precinct.
Today, we get a printout, and it’s much more efficient. I appreciate the efficiency and all the work that goes behind it to make it look so easy now. I know the clerk’s office and the board of elections have hundreds of hours of work behind them before 6 p.m. on election day rolls around. They have more work ahead of them before they can close the books for another year.

For the rest of us, however, we just have to wait a bit.

The thoughts about past election days reminded me of the chalk board at the historic courthouse.
After all the results were tallied, the clerk would fill out a huge chalkboard on the wall with precinct by precinct results. The doors would be left unlocked so anyone could go in and see the results.
On a visit in the courthouse in 2022 while working on a committee to restore the courthouse, I snapped a photo of that board. The chalk is still there showing the votes for presidential candidate tickets McCain/Palin and Obama/Biden. The tallies continue down to an 8-candidate race for Columbia City Council.

I’m sure Greer is glad the chalkboard is no longer part of the election-night requirement, but it’s been replaced with ink toners and cantankerous computer technology, so there will always be something to deal with. Greer mentioned Tuesday night that she had rounded up options for generators should the storms of the day take out electricity and leave some precincts without power. You can’t plan for everything, but you can plan for everything you can think of.

As technology changes, so will election day. It may not be as much fun, but I did get back to the office at record pace Tuesday night, so that’s a benefit.

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