Something very unusual was afoot Tuesday night at the Wyoming County Board of Elections. The ritual has always been the same — a flurry of phone calls about 9:10 p.m. after the polls close. Lots of chatter as elections officials transcribe the results, entering the numbers into the computer system.
But on Tuesday? The phones were silent. New technology has changed the way county elections are conducted.
“What we did differently was instead of doing it over the phone and calling in the results, we decided (the polling site coordinators) would bring the data card in with them, which they do anyhow,” said Republican Election Commissioner James Schlick. “I think it worked out so much better. The poll site coordinators are more comfortable and they’re not having to read the results over the phone.”
The new procedure is dramatically more efficient. It stems from difficulties the Board of Elections faced last November. Until now, election nights involved lots of frantic hustling. Tally sheets were laid out for each of the county’s 39 election districts in preparation for the night’s action.
Elections staff manned the building’s three phone lines awaiting calls. Runners would grab the appropriate tally sheet once a call arrived. One election staffer would write down the results by hand, while another typed the information into the computer.
The system was slow and complex, though effective.
“Putting all those little pencil marks by hand, after you do it for a few hours, is a little bit difficult,” said Democratic Election Commissioner Anna Mae Balmas.
The Board of Elections encountered an especially frustrating delay last November, after some electronic results were read incorrectly at the voting sites — forcing personnel to re-do all the results themselves.