Call me Florida
Or Ohio. More on that later.
I was at the polls by 6:20 AM yesterday. I stayed there until 1:30 PM, when I left for an hour lunch. I was then there until 3:30, when I went to use the bathroom inside, only to discover that some yahoo had locked everyone out, at which point I jumped in my car and went home for 3.5 minutes before returning. The polls closed at 8 PM. One of my running mates and I went inside for the "quick count."
To explain the quick count, I should first explain Fairfield's voting machines. When chads were hanging in Florida in 2000, I was completely confused; I could not believe that people were still punching ballots by hand. In Fairfield, we have behemoth voting machines—originally designed sometime in the 1920s—that happen to be incredibly straightforward and easy to use. All you have to do is pull a small lever down over the people you're voting for, and then pull a big level in front of you to register all of your votes at once. In the event that you vote for too many, the big lever won't budge until you rectify the problem.
So, as I said, this is all mechanical. At the eight o'clock, when the polls close, they lock out all of the voters and allow in anyone who's there for the "quick count." For the quick count, they rotate all of the machines—there are four of them in my district—90 degrees and open up the backs. One of the volunteers then walks from machine to machine, reading off the count for each of the offices at the top of the ticket (i.e. first selectman, selectman, town clerk, board of finance, board of ed), while skipping over the down-ticket offices (i.e. constable, planning and zoning, RTM). People like us who are there to hear the quick count then have a few minutes to add up the results and call them in to their respective headquarters.
So, as I said, my running mate and I went in for the quick count. It was not good. And, if history is any indication, when things go poorly for the top of the ticket, they go just as poorly (if not worse) down-ticket.
We call in the quick count and get ready for the real count. As predicted, things don't look so good. You may remember from my previous post that there are ten candidates (five from each party) and the top five vote-getters win seats on the RTM—well, I was coming down pretty much dead center. It could easily have gone either way.
We do a quick addition once all the numbers have been called. One of the Dems sitting across the table say quickly "what do you figure, we held three?" My running mate and I were still sort of in shock by how badly things had turned, and we agreed that that sounded right. They got up and left, and we started double-checking our numbers. When we were certain that we had everything right, we started circling the winners for each race. And on RTM, we couldn't believe our eyes.
Now, my district used to be a Republican stronghold. About ten years ago that started changing. Two years ago, the Dems took all five seats. If we hadn't been in shock from the up-ticket trouncing, we would have been very excited to have stolen two seats back from the Dems.
When the dust cleared and we verified the numbers, we saw that we'd picked up three. And I was in fifth place. By ten votes. And the next closest was two votes behind that. The fourth place finisher was twenty votes above me.
In other words, it was a pretty tight pack. To make matters worse, we didn't have the absentee ballots included in this count.
So, we packed up our stuff and headed back to headquarters. After a while, the official counts came in. Including absentees, I am now in fifth by six votes, with two Democrats tied for sixth. A fellow Republican is ahead of me by thirteen votes. And by Connecticut state law, if the difference between us is less than one and one half percent of the total votes cast in our race, then an automatic recount is required. Sure enough, my race demands an recount.
Now, the Town Clerk's office will do its best to convince the Dems below me to concede, in which case the recount is cancelled. That makes it possible that I could have been declared the official winner as early as today—I wasn't. Otherwise, the recount should occur early next week.
In other words, as I said before, call me Florida. Or Ohio.
The good news is that as far as anyone can remember, no one has ever picked up six votes in a single-district recount. I should be able to hold up under these circumstances, but it will be close.
So keep your fingers crossed, and I'll keep you updated.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Call me Florida