Town clerks recount how the count went down

Nov 18, 2020

In a general election that has stayed in the headlines for weeks, Tri-Town Clerks said voting went just about as smoothly as could have.

“Considering we had a huge turnout,” said Rochester Town Clerk Paul Dawson, “it went really, really well.”

He said that between early voting and bringing on extra poll workers, the town was able to handle the high turnout.

“We were able to prepare well for it,” Dawson said, considering the national controversy surrounding mail-in ballots and complications related to the covid pandemic. 

And even though Dawson said he had meetings with Police Chief Robert Small to plan how to deal with things like voters claiming fraud, he said those and other potential issues “never materialized.”

He said the only place the town saw issues with its election was with college students who had their absentee ballots sent to college addresses they were no longer staying at due to the pandemic. But after a few phone calls to find out where those ballots should actually be sent, that issue was quelled, too. 

“I think we learned how to deal with glitches in the system,” Dawson said. “It’s pretty straightforward.”

And Dawson said that with the way early voting went this year, he wouldn’t be surprised to see it become a permanent fixture in the state’s elections.

He said absentee and early ballots are essentially “the same thing under a different name.” 

“People were worried about mail in ballots,” Dawson said. “And honestly we’ve been doing it for years.” 

Marion had the strongest voter turnout out of all three towns, with 85% of the town’s 4,375 registered voters showing out to cast their ballots.

“Overall, it went very smoothly,” Town Clerk Lissa Magauran said.

56% of voters casted their ballots using early voting. Magauran thought that in-person voting was going to be down as a result, but an additional 1,321 voters came to the Benjamin D. Cushing Community Center on Election Day. When the polls opened at 7 a.m., there was already a line outside, and she said over 150 people voted in the first hour and 665 people had cast their ballot by noon.

She said the majority of voters were very well-behaved. However, she noted that a small number of people wouldn’t wear masks, one of whom caused a small scene. 

As for candidate supporters, there was only one person who was asked to move outside of the 150 foot radius surrounding the polling place. 

But the one thing Magauran had a major issue with was write-in ballots.

She said people like to write in their own names or fake names when they either don't like the candidate, or don’t know for whom they should cast their ballots. What voters don't realize is that this action makes Magauran and her office have to go through and hand separate every single ballot and then hand count all of the write-ins. 

“This both adds to our work load and makes it take longer to process the election results,” Magauran said. “So please don't try to be funny by writing in bogus or your own names.” 

No matter who was written down, Magauran said the Marion and Rochester Post Offices “really rose to the occasion,” even bringing ballots to the office after the day’s mail was delivered.

Going forward, she would love to see early voting and absentee voting combined into one streamlined process because it makes voting easier internally. 

And even if this election determined who is going to be the President, Magauran stressed the importance of voting in local elections, as this is where the political process starts.

“Don’t assume that you don’t have a voice or that your voice doesn’t matter because it does,” she said.