Fielder’s Choice

The South Reporter - Keeping up with the vote

Election nights aren’t like they used to be when I first started in the newspaper business. I got introduced to them at The Itawamba County Times in Fulton.

On the street that ran beside the newspaper office, we’d get the big chalkboard in place the day of the election. Folks would start lining up their lawn chairs early, well before the polls closed, getting ready for the election party.

There was no internet then or e-mail or cell phones.

We’d have someone stationed at the courthouse across the street. They’d get the latest printout of the results and run it back as quickly as possible for posting on the big board. The street was full.

And at the same time, I’d be working with the editor, getting the election story ready to go to press. And we’d also have a full page, where we wrote in, yes by hand, the precinct-byprecinct results.

It’s my understanding similar election parties were held in Holly Springs, too, plus I know other cities across Mississippi did the same.

I got very little sleep on election nights then, and I’ve gotten little sleep on election nights in the 33 years I’ve worked at newspapers in Mississippi.

A few days prior to the recent August 6 primary, I called Marshall County Circuit Clerk Lucy Carpenter and asked her my usual question, “What time are we going to be finished?”

Her answer was quick, “I’m hoping 11.”

I was excited. I knew that time would work great for me, having to get back to the office, write a story and send the final two pages to press.

At the courthouse that night, we joked some about the 11 p.m. estimate.

“That’s what Lucy told me,” I said, “and I’m for sure putting my faith in someone who has been doing this 44 years.”

She is retiring after 11 terms in office. That’s amazing, the state’s longest-serving circuit clerk.

As the clock reached 10:30, there were some smiles, and some doubts. With 970 absentee ballots, it stretched the completion to about 11:15 p.m.

I got some late-night proofreading help from staff member Beth Breithaupt, finished up the front page and page 11, sent it to the printer electronically, called to make sure all was OK on the other end, and got home at 1 a.m.

Back in the late 1980s in Itawamba County, I got home long after that.

As far as the blackboard method, these days newspapers, including this one, take advantage of the internet and social media and immediately post results as they are tallied.

I received a lot of “thanks for all the updates” on election night.

One said, “It doesn’t go unappreciated.”

It’s my job. I enjoy it. It’s still fun, yet stressful, after 33 years.

And as long as “thank yous” are being dished out. I want to give some to Lucy Carpenter and her staff, the election commissioners, poll workers and others who join in and contribute the completion of the entire election process.

One of my favorite parts of an election is seeing all of them work together late at night, in the tallying room, to complete the task efficiently. On August 6, it was as good as ever.

As we left the courthouse on Tuesday night of last week, many said, “See y’all again on August 27 (for the runoff).”

Holly Springs South Reporter

P.O. Box 278
Holly Springs, MS 38635
PH: (662) 252-4261
FAX: (662) 252-3388

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