Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

November 7, 2012

Analysis: “Astronomical” early voting, historic turnout at polls, and local upset make for a heady election day

RUSK —

The repercussions of Election Day 2012 were felt around the country Tuesday, as voters turned out in droves around the country to cast ballots for a President, various and sundry officials, and an alcohol proposition in neighboring Smith County.

But in Cherokee County, the majority of the 16,499 voters who turned out cast ballots for Cherokee County District Attorney candidate Rachel Patton. The veteran prosecutor soundly defeated Elmer Beckworth — the district attorney since 2001 — by nearly 60 percent percent to nearly 41 percent. The early voting results between the two were roughly the same.

The Tuesday night victory had many discussing the whys and wherefores of the victory. Local Republican Josie Schoolcraft, an alternate election judge, speculated that Patton's appeal as a Republican candidate was her ability to stretch across political lines to reach out to Democrats.

But Patton on Tuesday night declined to speculate about political repercussions.

"I don't claim to be an expert on politics," she said. "I did not run for office for that reason. I ran for office to do a  lot of good for the people of Cherokee County in the position of District Attorney. My campaign has, from the beginning, been a grass roots campaign. There was not a lot of money or big money people giving me the financial ability to do the things a lot of high dollar campaigns can do."

Patton's victory aside, Tuesday was a rough night for election officials who had to contend with a stalling computer system that greatly slowed down the dissemination of voting information to citizens. With 16,499 voters out of 26,751 registered voters weighing in, there was a lot of voting traffic to deal with. 

Connie Quine, Cherokee County chief deputy voter registrar, said the computer problems were most likely caused by multiple users trying to access the  system all at once. Because there were no votes processed through the computer system, the voting process was uncontaminated, she added.

"We've got this system down pretty smooth now," she said. "There are no hanging chads."

Incidentally, the election results will stay unofficial until the election is canvassed, hopefully the week of Nov. 19, prior to Thanksgiving, election officials said.

Meanwhile, at the Cherokee County Courthouse, only a handful of people sat inside the tax assessor collector's office waiting for results to pop up on the computer and talking about the election turnout. Once upon a time, there would have been a huge crowd of Cherokee County's biggest movers and shakers there all night. The Internet has had a decentralization effect on many elections. 

Despite the small crowd watching the results, the election turnout was unbelievable, said Linda Little, Tax Assessor Collector.

"It was absolutely phenomenal," Little said. "The voting was massive."

Cheryl Cameron, a local Republican, was there with Schoolcraft keeping Little company at the courthouse.

Quine described the turnout -- particularly the 8,000-plus early votes — as "astronomical." 

Earlier in the evening, Quine and Cherokee County James E. Campbell stood outside election department office on 138 W. Fifth Street helping guide several panicking last minute voters to the right place.

 "She's barely going to make it," the sheriff remarked to Quine after she guided one voter to a nearby precinct, one of 25 polling places. 

"I know," Quine whispered back.

Several voters who were out and about Tuesday evening said they turned out to vote because they are hoping for things to be different.

Dan Trent, 65, of Jacksonville, an early voter,  said he believes it is time for the country to move forward and certainly ahead. This, he said, is what drove his vote in large part.

"I certainly hope it will," he said. "I really do hope so. It's time for change."

Three local residents exiting the voting establishment on Fifth Street shortly before the polls closed Tuesday had some thoughts to share about this election. They were: Jereme Hubbard, 29, of Rusk, Tiffany Dotson, 37 of Jacksonville, and Dotson's daughter Landrey, 7.

 Hubbard was the only one actually voting. Dotson had already early voted. The two of them had brought Landrey along so she could experience the voting process herself.

Landrey — who attends The Brookhill School in Bullard — had a mock election in her school and got to make her own, oversized, voter ID card, which she proudly displayed.

Hubbard said this election, however packed, is much different from the one four years ago — even though President Obama was in both elections.

"Four years ago, the two people who were running had never been president before," Hubbard said, "This was much different."

Brenda Emerson of Jacksonville cast her vote for President Barack Obama.

“I hadn't voted since (President Bill) Clinton ran for a second term," Emerson said. "And it was important to me to vote, because it had been awhile.”

Jacksonville resident Marlene Jowell was among those who voted early, saying that for her, “it's a matter of convenience.”

The biggest issue for her this election season was the economy, “which I think President Obama has done a fabulous job.” 

Regardless of who a person supports, exercising the right to vote is paramount, Jowell said.

Cherokee County Precinct 35 election judge Joanna Reagan said that despite a prediction of slower traffic at Art-Anon, the Precinct 35 polling site in Jacksonville,  high voter turnout during the early voting period proved the opposite to be true.

“We ran out of supplies,” she said. “It was a great problem to have, because we were thrilled to have so many people voting today. It was steady here all day.”

Jackie Gruber, her counterpart at Precinct 15 reported a steady flow of voters at First Christian Church. Precinct 15 is the largest in Cherokee County, and during the early voting period, 980-plus people cast ballots.

“There are approximately 3,000 registered voters in this precinct, and we had a good numbers today,” Gruber said.

Reagan agreed it was a good day for Democracy.

“It's true," she said. "Your vote counts."

 

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