Lessons learned af­ter record midterm vote in Polk

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Kevin Myrick [email protected]­stan­dard­jour­nal. net

The Polk County Com­mis­sion will have a pair of new faces join­ing the ranks come Jan­uary, and a pair re­turn­ing to their seats af­ter vot­ers made their voices heard through the bal­lot box.

In­com­ing new mem­bers in­clude Gary Martin to rep­re­sent Dis­trict 1, who won with­out con­test dur­ing the Nov. 6 elec­tion. He’ll be joined by Ray Carter, who won over two op­po­nents in a spe­cial elec­tion to serve out a two-year term in an open Dis­trict 3 seat.

Carter will be tak­ing over the seat in Jan­uary af­ter he won 6,645 votes, or 59.48 per­cent of the to­tal. Larry Reynolds came in at 20.23 per­cent or 2,260 votes and in third place Jer­i­lyn Purdy had 2,107 votes, or 18.86 per­cent of the to­tal.

He said in a late night in­ter­view wait­ing for re­sults at the County Ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing that he was thank­ful to vot­ers for giv­ing him the op­por­tu­nity.

“I feel good, kind of shocked. We had three good can­di­dates. I was pleas­antly sur­prised, but we had great turnout and ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery­one com­ing out,” Carter said.

He won’t be sit­ting around wait­ing for his term to start for long. He sat and lis­tened to dis­cus­sions be­fore bal­lots be­gan be­ing counted at the County Com­mis­sion’s Novem­ber

“(I plan to) get to work,” he said. “It’s a two-year term, so it’s a lit­tle bit shorter and we’ll be back here again. But we’ve def­i­nitely got some things that I need to get to work with the com­mis­sion on, but I’m look­ing for­ward to it.”

Carter wants to look at a num­ber of items as he plans to hit the ground run­ning in the New Year as a com­mis­sioner, but doesn’t plan to be re­ac­tive in the po­si­tion.

“I’m a lit­tle more proac­tive than is­sue­ori­ented,” Carter said. “As I said in the Fo­rum, there’s some things that we can do around the landfill that are out­side of the con­tract. I think that’s one area that I’ll fo­cus on right up front. Of course wages are still tossed around out there, and I look for­ward to work­ing on that.”

On­line the fol­low­ing morn­ing af­ter the elec­tion, Jeri Purdy added her own thoughts about tak­ing part in the 2018 cam­paign, and said she would likely find other ways to lend her ser­vice to her home.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate each and ev­ery one,” Purdy wrote on Face­book. “God isn’t fin­ished with me yet, and I will con­tinue to step up for Rock­mart and Polk County, just in other ways.”

Dis­trict 2 com­mis­sioner and chair Jen­nifer Hulsey re­tains her seat af­ter a wide mar­gin of vic­tory over Demo­cratic chal­lenger Ricky Clark. Her bid for re-elec­tion gar­nered her 9,636 bal­lots, or 77.09 per­cent of the vote com­pared to the 2,839 votes re­ceived for Clark, or 22.71 per­cent.

Hulsey was also glad to be get­ting back to work come Jan­uary.

“I’m hum­bled to be rep­re­sent­ing Polk County, and just proud to rep­re­sent my com­mu­nity and I’m glad the vot­ers chose to elect me again,” she said. “I don’t take any­thing for granted and I’m ex­cited about the fu­ture and I’m hop­ing we can move things for­ward even more.”

She said work will con­tinue on ini­tia­tives to im­prove ru­ral broad­band ac­cess for Polk County residents, the landfill and em­ployee is­sues.

“We’ve got a lot to do, but I’m ex­cited and I think we’re go­ing to ac­com­plish a lot of goals,” she said.

Also up for elec­tion in 2018 but with­out an op­po­nent was Com­mis­sioner Hal Floyd, who will con­tinue to serve Dis­trict 3 and takes over the seat be­ing left open by Marshelle Thax­ton when he re­tires af­ter more than a decade on the board at year’s end.

Polk County just ex­pe­ri­enced a record midterm elec­tion, with more than 60 per­cent turnout of all the vot­ers reg­is­tered.

Though polling it­self went smoothly with only mi­nor prob­lems re­ported with a cou­ple of the ma­chines through­out the day, the county’s re­lease of vote tal­lies was far be­hind the rest of the state due to is­sues that cropped up af­ter the precincts closed.

Elec­tions Di­rec­tor Lee Ann Ge­orge said that hard lessons were learned about en­sur­ing that ev­ery­thing is done in or­der when the midterms con­cluded on Nov. 6, and said prob­lems with the clos­ing down of ma­chines af­ter Elec­tion Day wrapped up caused de­lays as she worked through so­lu­tions with the state.

“When they were run­ning the to­tals at the end of the night, some of the poll work­ers hit some wrong prompts on the screen, and it froze,” Ge­orge ex­plained. “We weren’t sure how to pro­ceed, and so we called upon the state for help.”

She said they helped he through a lengthy process to fix the is­sues, and that re­lease of un­of­fi­cial polling data as they worked through the fixes was un­avoid­able.

No votes were lost at any time in the process, Ge­orge said. She added that ad­di­tional train­ing for poll work­ers will be put in place in the fu­ture to avoid the mis­take in fu­ture elec­tions.

How­ever, some of is­sues sur­round­ing late tal­lies on Elec­tion night came down to vot­ers them­selves. Ge­orge didn’t spec­ify how many, but she said a num­ber of ab­sen­tee write-in bal­lots had to be du­pli­cated to en­sure vot­ers filled them out cor­rectly, since had they not votes wouldn’t have counted due to er­rors of mark­ing too many boxes.

Ge­orge said elec­tion monitors from both the Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can par­ties over­saw the cor­rec­tions made by elec­tion of­fi­cials to make bal­lots cor­rect, and that process also took longer than ex­pected.

De­spite all this, she said the first ma­jor elec­tion un­der her ten­ure pro­vided a new in­sight into what she’s ca­pa­ble of han­dling even un­der the pres­sure of a record-set­ting midterm year.

“I learned how to keep my calm dur­ing the storm,” she said.

The full tally came in from the seven precincts across Polk County late in the evening af­ter some 12,897 of the 20,970 vot­ers cast bal­lots in this year’s elec­tion.

That was only a cou­ple of thou­sand bal­lots be­hind the 2016 elec­tion, which saw 14,323 out of 20,268 reg­is­tered vot­ers tak­ing place and was well over the 8,216 votes cast in 2014 out for the 17,958 reg­is­tered vot­ers in the 2014 midterm elec­tion.

Though many voted in this elec­tion for the can­di­dates al­ready on the bal­lot, there’s a long tra­di­tion of peo­ple de­cid­ing for them­selves who should be in of­fice and this year’s midterms was no dif­fer­ent.

Pop­u­lar can­di­dates writ­ten-in for jobs in­cluded such char­ac­ters as “Mickey Mouse,” “Daffy Duck” and “Porky Pig;” also celebri­ties like Char­lotte Har­ris, Robert Du­val, Wil­lie Nel­son and Gary Busey.

Je­sus Christ also ranked high among the po­ten­tial can­di­dates for of­fice in 2018.

Oth­ers that are of note are a few who wrote in “Not this one,” “Any­body else,” or some­thing akin to it that can’t be printed.

“Demo­crat” and “Any Demo­crat” also made the list sev­eral times.

“Trump” and “Not Trump” also made ap­pear­ances as write-ins as well.

/ Kevin Myrick

The Elec­tion Tree out­side of the Polk County Board of Elec­tions of­fice greeted of­fi­cials who brought back ma­chines for the tally on Tues­day, Nov. 7.

/ Kevin Myrick

Com­mis­sioner Jen­nifer Hulsey (front) and soon to be Com­mis­sioner Ray Carter sat with fam­ily and friends wait­ing for elec­tion re­sults on Tues­day night, Nov. 6 af­ter polls closed in the 2018 Midterms.

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