Ah, election night. It’s always been a big deal, but back in my youth, it was a lot of fun and quite an experience.
You see, ages ago, in 1976, actually, my mom, in her deep wisdom, signed me up to help her work at the election headquarters for Minneapolis.
Back then, voters used the old style booths to vote in. They had the flip switches next to a printed name card of the candidates. You’d flip the switch for your choice, and the vote would be recorded when you pulled the lever back to open the curtain. Everything would be tabulated on counters on the back of the machines.
Then the judges at each precinct would read the counters and put the numbers on a large sheet and add up the numbers for each candidate from all of the precinct’s machines. My dad did this up at Waite Park –Ward 1, Precinct 2. Then those judges would call in the totals to the election headquarters phone room. My mom usually worked the phone room, taking those calls.
Those folks would write down the totals on sheets of paper and then would wave them for the runners to take to the tabulation room. They would add up the results as they came in, and at regular intervals, would issue total reports that would then be taken by a runner to the media room where the totals would be put up on the overhead projector.
Remember, it was 1976…
I took my job as a runner very seriously. It was important. It was vital. For several years, I ran paper from the phone room to the tabulators. But finally in 1980, I got a bigger job: I was a runner for the media room.
Those years working as a runner taught me some important things: The process of counting the votes in an election is complicated, even now; that every vote is indeed counted somewhere by someone, and that it takes a lot of people to run an election, so it’s hard to malign the process unless it’s been completely botched.
I’d always look over the sheets that I ran from one group to another, quickly trying to memorize who has the lead in what part of the city. And that gave me a valuable insight: there were different places in the political world, and those different places have different political views.
Tonight, I’m watching another election. I’m certain there’s no runners involved, but there is a lot going on and it’s still as interesting as ever to see how different places have differing views. It’s still an amazing process. Regardless of whether your people won or lost, you still need to be in awe of the whole procedure.
See you tomorrow.