Editor’s blog: Election night goes high tech even in a small town

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

Election night is a special time in Glen Rose. The tradition of gathering on the historic Somervell County Courthouse grounds to wait for election results to be posted is one of those Norman Rockwell scenes.

Opponents – who often also happen to be friends – exchange “good luck” wishes. Anticipation crackles through the crowd. People catch up with each other as their kids run and laugh. The atmosphere feels festive, like something big is about to happen.

And it is. As the vote totals come in, the local party chairs climb a ladder to write the tallies on the white board that hangs from the gazebo on the square. At the foot of the tall courthouse clock tower and beneath the glow of street lamps, candidates learn who won and who lost. Joy and disappointment intermingle, the defeated shake the hands of the winners and the crowd gradually disperses.

The next morning the board still hangs on the gazebo with its numbers – and its stories – there for citizens to see.  It is a record of basic rights exercised and democracy demonstrated.

Well, it used to be. The tradition is going to change somewhat this Election Day. The county plans to use a projection system for the first time to post vote totals onto a screen that can scroll up and down. Breakdowns of votes will be available from the courthouse. As soon as word got out that the tradition of posting by hand was going to change, however, the grumbling began.

Another technological innovation made its debut this Election Day when the county used a computerized sign-in system for registered voters rather than the paper rolls of the past. The idea is to make signing in quicker and more efficient.

Those two technical changes aside, standing around the courthouse square still is a much more charming and personal way to watch election returns and to cover an election. In the past when I covered elections for large metro newspapers, Election Day was a long waiting game until the polls closed. The reporters watched the returns come in by TV, by computer or stationed at the various locations where candidates held their victory parties. When the contenders finally took the stage to declare victory or acknowledge defeat, there was a mad scene of TV cameras, lights, microphones and cables.

Then it was rush, rush, rush to gather candidate comments and reaction and file the story. Something about the whole hectic, impersonal process felt hollow, which is why covering elections in Glen Rose is so refreshing. If anyone is feeling jaded after this campaign season, come on down to the courthouse square and get a dose of small-town patriotism and faith in the political process.

Tonight I’ll be using my good ol’ pen and notepad and some new tools, too – new for me, at least. I’ll have my new iPad and a free app and online blogging tool called Cover It Live. As the early voting results come in, I’ll post them live using Cover It Live. The blogs will show up on the Current’s website as well as on its Facebook page.

Since Glen Rose doesn’t have a TV or radio station providing onsite live coverage, this is a good way to let folks know what is happening as it is happening.

So several old-fashioned traditions will meet new-fangled ways of handling and covering elections this year. Hopefully, all the technology will work and the election will go smoothly. See you on the square…and don’t forget your smart phones, Blackberries, iPads and digital cameras!

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