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A pseudo-climactic election

The big computer snafu last Tuesday not withstanding, much of the excitement has dwindled on election nights in Harrison County during recent years. We’re sure that’s not for best.
There was a time when everyone gathered in the third-floor courtroom at the courthouse in downtown Corydon and awaited the results. Democrats sometimes sat next to Republicans to read the large black-board type tote boards listing each of the voting precincts in Harrison County and the candidates.
Every so often a representative of election officials would come upstairs from the second floor clerk’s office (where the votes were counted behind closed doors) and announce the number of votes each candidate had received and post the figures.
The suspense mounted until closer to the end of the counting, when cheers shifted from one side of the room to the other as the audience whistled and clapped their approval. Or their disapproval.
These days, everyone either sits at home and watches the returns on TV for perhaps a glimpse of Harrison County race results or they log on to The Corydon Democrat’s Web site ( for an update. Some hang out across the street at The Real Enchilada while still others await results by cell phone at either Democratic or Republican headquarters. Still, some candidates and/or their supporters trek to the courthouse and mingle with the others awaiting results.
Throughout the evening, a runner from the clerk’s office distributes copies of the results as they trickle in from the hinterlands, precinct by precinct until all 35 are accounted for.
Although hair-raising in some respects, something is plainly amiss with today’s method.
For instance, picture a day at Churchill Downs ‘ Derby Day sounds appropriate ‘ when the electronic toteboard goes dark in the infield and everyone must turn to the other to compare notes. Did Old Gray Mare really finish first or was that another nose we saw cross the finish line? By the time that’s been figured out, who cares? The guy with the winning ticket, that’s who.
The euphoria’s not quite the same as everyone finding out at once who won or lost.
But then there were the not-so-long-ago times when hanging chads presented a problem, back before hanging chads became a household issue. Being the aggressive county that we are, which translated means having all those riverboat dollars to spend, we eventually plunked down the money to buy digital scanning machines and quit worrying about those pesky chads.
Those machines seemed to work quite well.
People gathered in their own little corner on election nights ‘ commissioners in the commissioners room, treasurer in the treasurer’s office, etc., etc. ‘ and brought in their own tote boards to keep track of votes per precinct.
While most of us just pay attention to the vote counts per candidate, others in the know watch to see how well one does in this particular precinct compared to another. They know, for instance, where everyone grew up and if that person doesn’t carry their ‘home’ precinct, they are in a world of hurt. It’s a lot like listening to the political pundits in a national election, but a lot closer to home and usually more reliable.
There was time for a lot of that back when those computers were working so flawlessly. But as most of us know by now, when the computer doesn’t work, nothing else does either.
We have from now until the fall to correct whatever it was that went wrong this year with those expensive optical scanning machines. We know the computer program that counts the numbers spit out by the memory packs refused to work, so technicians had to read the numbers and key them in manually. Few races were close enough that a recount would likely change the outcome, but strange things happen so we’ll have to wait and see.
We weren’t alone with the problem. Ten of the Ninth District’s 20 counties (including ours) hadn’t reported official numbers by 1 a.m. The Indiana Election Board and the Secretary of State’s office are investigating, and we hope the answers aren’t long in coming.
In the meantime, we congratulate all the Primary Election winners, and in most races, that includes the voters. Because no one loses when good people stand up to be counted.