Election ends an era

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The few visitors to the Edgar County Courthouse to watch election results Tuesday night had a surprise.

Missing from the rotunda was the giant chalkboard suspended from the back of the elevator shaft where, for decades, volunteers have posted precinct results. Instead, a projector flashed results against a wall in the downstairs courtroom. The system was set up to scroll through the various elections and show the results immediately as information updated.

“I’m thinking this is the way it’s going to go,” said August Griffin, Edgar County Clerk and Recorder. “It’s a smoother and quicker process.”

He explained as the county’s election vendor verified results that data was automatically fed into the projection system, ending the need to print out results for hand writing the numbers on the giant board.

“It’s served its time and purpose,” Griffin said regarding the big board.

He also expressed relief the chalkboard is gone noting volunteers had to climb ladders and work on a makeshift scaffolding to post the information. While the structure was adequate to support a volunteer’s weight, Griffin was always worried about someone falling and sustaining an injury because of a misstep.

This is the second time Griffin tried projecting results of an election. He said the first experiment was not satisfactory because it required somebody from his office to type a spreadsheet as each precinct was finalized, and that was not any faster than using the big board display in the rotunda. The automatic transfer of data used Tuesday evening was fast and the image created by the projector was sharp and clear to read.

It was readily apparent how much faster this system is over the cumbersome method of transcribing from a paper report onto the chalkboard. Results from the first polling place arrived at the courthouse shortly before 7:30 p.m., and a little after 8 p.m. some of the elections were shown as fully counted. A possible contributing factor in the speed of counting was officials did not have that many ballots to tabulate. Less than 15 percent of Edgar County voters participated in the election.

The crowds of people that packed the courthouse to watch election results before the Internet age have been dwindling for several years. It became much faster and more convenient to watch and calculate results online from home, or some other location, than to wait for the manual postings at the courthouse. Less than 30 people at a time were in courtroom 2 to watch the results.

“I’ve joined the 21st century,” Griffin said.