Dedicated poll workers and what may be in store for tonight’s election results

Who would have thought that the most politically powerful class of people in Lawrence are the folks who own four-wheel-drive vehicles?

Just think if candidates would have known a few weeks ago how important a heavy duty truck would be to get voters to the polls. Political rallies at monster truck pulls, campaign promises of South Park becoming a mud pit for giant truck rallies, and Larry the Cable Guy jokes at every campaign event.

Yeah, I’m just mad that I sold my four-wheel drive vehicle several years ago. (I have told my wife many times that I should never sell a vehicle. Just build a bigger garage.)

Normally, I’m out and about on Election Day trying to get the sense of voters, trying to determine turnout, trying to see if there is a big issue on the minds of voters. Today, not so much. I’m mainly trying to convince my 9-year-old son that shoveling the driveway is fun.

I plan to be on the scene tonight covering the election returns, but until then, I’ll let you guys be my eyes and ears. If you been to the polls today, tell me your experience in the comment section below.

As we’ve already reported this morning, all polling places are open, and voting runs to 7 p.m.
I spent some time hanging out at the Douglas County Courthouse yesterday, and it was interesting to see just how many people are determined to vote in a Lawrence City Commission Primary. Turnout for a city primary election usually isn’t good — below 15 percent often — but the ones who do vote are serious about voting.
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew told me that he has observed that there is a core group of about 9,500 voters who come to vote anytime there is an election in Lawrence. We’ll see whether we get to that number in this election.

I’ll tell you who else is devoted to this election: Poll workers. Shew said he has had a few Lawrence residents call him and volunteer to get the quick course training in becoming a poll worker because they happen to live across the street from a polling place. They figured they were going to be off work anyway, so they may as well help out at the polls. Shew said he even had one poll worker offer to walk to the polling place.

“He said he only lives about three miles away,” Shew said. “I told him I thought we could come up with a better plan.”

Poll workers and election watchers will need to be dedicated tonight. Shew told me to warn everybody that counting the votes tonight will be slower than normal. Not only will it take longer to get the ballots to the courthouse — in some cases Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies may be dispatched to get the ballots and poll workers safely back to the courthouse.

“It took us about two hours to get our workers to the polls this morning,” Shew told me today. “We’ll have to reverse that process tonight.”

But there also is a technological issue to consider this evening.

Shew’s staff did not deliver the electronic ballot machines to the polling stations because they were rushed to get all the essentials, such as ballot boxes, polling booths and other items to the sites due to the weather.
Douglas County uses a paper ballot system, but each polling place has an electronic machine that voters put the ballot into when they are done. That machine actually tabulates the ballots as they are entered. Normally, after the polls close, Shew and his staff can pull the electronic cards from those machines and download the results into their computers. After doing a bit of cross checking, Shew can crank out results pretty quickly.

But those machines never made it to the polling sites, so each individual ballot will have to be slid into machines at the courthouse this evening.

But even after that process is complete, I’m not sure we’ll have a clear picture of the winners and losers tonight. It seems likely that we’ll have a high number of provisional ballots in this election. Anybody who can’t make it to their designated polling place, can request a ballot at any polling place in the city and vote today. But those ballots will be what is called “provisional ballots.” Those ballots, I believe, won’t be counted tonight. Instead, those ballots normally aren’t counted until Monday, when election officials will do what is called the “canvass” of ballots. Each provisional ballot has to be ruled upon as to whether it is a valid vote.

Normally, there aren’t enough provisional ballots to make much of a difference in the outcome. But this primary is shaping up to be a close contest. I think the race to determine who gets that sixth and final spot will be pretty close. If there are 100 or so provisional ballots outstanding at the end of the evening, that will be significant.

We’ll just have to wait and see — and of course, in the meantime, shovel.