Scenes from the polls

At Van Buren Elementary at around 3 p.m., there was scarcely a parking spot to be found.

Sure, some of the traffic was because school pickup time was nearing, but a line of about a half-dozen people stood waiting to vote in the gym.

And about twice as many onlookers stood in the schoolyard, still working to get their name and their message out to voters until the second they cast their ballot.

Susan Ridge, a retired teacher, held a sign in favor of the Brown County Schools referendum.

Being there to explain it helps, she said. Though the possible 8-cent-per-$100-of-assessed-valuation increase has been publicly discussed since last April, she said a handful of people still had not heard about it.

Republican treasurer candidate Mary Smith doesn’t have any opposition yet in this election. Yet, she’d already been to Cordry Sweetwater, Helmsburg, Sprunica and New Life church, waving and greeting potential supporters.

“It’s for fun,” she smiled. “And I still need to continue to get my name out.”

Beside her, Republican recorder candidate Judy Swift handed out literature. She’d been at Van Buren since 10.

Greg Pittman had been at his post since 6 a.m., and planned to stick it out the rest of the day to support his uncle, Republican commissioner candidate Jerry Pittman. “I said if I was gonna do it, I was gonna do it right,” Greg smiled.

Inspector Olivia Toler has worked every election but one, since 1968. She was struck by the tally of Republican to Democrat ballots in Van Buren, which used to swing pretty Democrat-heavy.

This election: So far, two-and-a-half more Republican ballots had been pulled than Democrat. “That’s very noteworthy,” she said.

She’d spoken to a voter earlier that day who said he hadn’t voted in 30 years. “But they’re out this year,” she said. And the presidential election is what’s doing it.

Outside, lounging at a picnic table, Ben Phillips said he’d seen 10 to 15 “strong Democrats” come through today and admit to the crowd that they’d pulled Republican ballots.

Why? “They aren’t going to vote for Hillary,” he said. “Most said ‘Trump.'”

“I wouldn’t want to bet on anything,” said Steve Payne beside him.

“I already did,” laughed son Doug Payne.

At Sprunica Elementary, 94-year-old Mary Brock was bound and determined to get out to vote for Clinton, and she made it. Her family sent this photo.

mary brock

At Washington 2, election judge Harry Bond sat next to the ballot scanner, watching the count tick up.

A poll worker for 25 years, he said he’d noticed an unusual number of “young guys” showing up to vote today.

Overall, turnout had been steady, he said, with seven to eight people waiting at times.

“Hopefully, it’ll be a push,” he said, about the soon-to-arrive 4 p.m. hour. “How they’re voting, I don’t know.”

Ballot ‘irregularities?’

A voter had reported on Facebook this afternoon that Van Buren Republican ballots had some “irregularities.”

Toler said the backs of four to five Republican ballots were not signed by both the Republican and Democrat poll clerks; the Democrat’s signature was missing.

When the irregularity was discovered around noon, Toler said voting was shut down temporarily and everyone who had a ballot in the polling place had it checked for both signatures. She said she was pretty sure the problem was fixed.

Without the proper signatures, it’s possible those ballots could be thrown out, she said. But that would only likely become a problem if there was a recount, she said.

Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.