Candidates, constituents prepare for primary results
By Karen Sells
Workers were expected to arrive before 7 a.m. at the 40 voting precincts in Washington County to ensure the polls opened promptly at 8 a.m.
A poll official who wakes up sick and unable to fulfill his or her responsibilities is a possibility, but Elections Administrator Maybell Stewart said her office has workers “on-notice” who are ready to step in. “We’ve worked very hard to make sure everyone has what they need,” she said.
“Our main concern is a power outage, but the voting machines have battery back-ups and we keep extra batteries on-hand. Even if the power did go out, we could still use the machines.”
The first tallies are taken at the individual precincts, with polls set to close at 8 p.m. “No tally begins until the last voter has voted, which will include everyone who got in line at 8 p.m.,” Stewart said. A tape of the results from that site’s tally is posted at the door, and the cards are taken to the Election Commission Office on the third floor of the courthouse in downtown Jonesborough.
A Microvote system machine reads the cards to compare with the precinct tally, and the results are posted to the Election Commission website, which is the only means candidates and interested members of the public will have to access the combined results.
The website numbers will be updated as information from the precincts is received. “At the same time, we are updating the portal to send the results to Nashville,” Stewart said.
The final results for the May 6 election are reflected when the website states “40 of 40 precincts reported.”
All of the candidates in a sampling contacted by the Herald & Tribune planned to spend the day interacting with the public.
“I expect to do the same thing as the last election, which is to hit as many polling precincts as possible,” Mayor Dan Eldridge said. “I shook hands, met a lot of people and answered questions.”
Eldridge said the aim of his effort isn’t to grab last-minute votes. “There are not a lot of people who haven’t made up their minds by the time they reach the polls,” he said. “I look at it as an opportunity to thank people.”
While a large celebration was held in 2010, Eldridge said he had no definite plans for the end of Election Day this year.
Challenger Mike Rutherford will also be at the polls. “We’re trying to determine the heaviest voting sites and places where we may not have communicated our message clearly, but we’re not there to approach the voters,” he said. “I plan to offer a visual presence in case anyone has questions.”
After the polls close, you will be able to find him standing outside the courthouse visiting with other candidates and supporters while waiting for results from the Election Commission. “It’s the traditional way of ending campaign night, and it’s the quickest way to pass two hours,” he said. In past years, election workers would bring out printed reports when a precinct’s tally was added to the total. “I guess this year we’ll be opening up our laptops,” he said.
Trustee candidate Monty Treadway expected to end his day at the courthouse also. “During the day, I’ll be moving around from (polling) place to place, and I’ll have four or five workers who will be helping me,” he said.
Michael Hartman, his challenger in the race, has some different plans. “I will be traversing the county going to different polls while a team of women is working a telephone bank for last-minute votes,” he said. “Later, the former trustee’s wife will be cooking dinner at a victory party in Jonesborough.”
Sheriff Ed Graybeal hasn’t discussed holding any kind of evening event, but he knew where he would be during the voting hours. “I’ll be out and about going to the polls,” he said.
Craig Ford, also seeking the office of sheriff, said he will start the day with devotions and prayer. “We have people lined up to work the polls, and I will travel around to the polls during the day,” he said. “We plan to meet back at the Visitors Center at 8 p.m. to wait for the results.”
Circuit Court Clerk Karen Guinn also will be working the polls. “I think most people will have their minds made up by then, but it’s good to see people,” she said.
Challenger Suzan Mitchell will start the day with a visit to her mother at NHC and then travel around the county visiting with people at the polls.
A small gathering in appreciation for all the supporters who helped her during the day is planned at her home that evening.
Sheila Haren, candidate for county clerk, plans to work at the polls in the morning, but said her only plans after they close are to begin picking up signs.
County Clerk Kathy Storey will spend time between two or three of the polls during the day. “Later on, we’re going to have a party, no matter what,” she said.
Some of the candidates still standing at the end of the Republican Primary will face challengers in the the county’s General Election scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 7.