Cathy Dyson writes about King George County. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The drama of waiting for Election Night results
Usually on Election Night, we sit around for hours, waiting for results, then have a matter of minutes to crunch the numbers and make sense of things.
Last night was no exception—and turned out to be even more of a roller-coaster ride in the James Monroe District.
I wasn’t able to report on the King George races because I’m among a group of people who put together charts showing results for the whole region. Intern Bridget Balch kindly agreed to keep track of what was happening in the two supervisors’ races—and I was checking the State Board of Elections website regularly for King George totals.
Cedell Brooks Jr. already had reclaimed his position as Shiloh District supervisor, and we were waiting to see who would win in the four-way race for James Monroe supervisor.
Bridget called Registrar Lorrie Gump at one point; to be honest, it all became a blur after so many hours, so I’m not sure what time it was. Bridget and Gump got disconnected, and Bridget called back again, asking the registrar to read the results, over the phone, for the James Monroe race.
That’s always tricky business and opens the door for error. I’ve been gathering election numbers for three decades and can tell you how easy it is to transpose numbers or put them in the wrong column when you’re taking them over the phone. That’s why we were so glad, a few years ago, when we could go to the state website for all the answers.
Gump told Bridget that Jim Howard was the top vote-getter, followed by Jeff Bueche, John LoBuglio and Rich Lorey.
Bridget dutifully called Howard, informing him of his win—because there was still nothing posted on the state website. She was working to finish her story when, suddenly, results appeared.
Problem was, they showed a different outcome. The posted results indicated Jeff Bueche had won the race.
I went to Bridget and told her what I was seeing. She panicked—who wouldn’t? We didn’t know if the numbers had gotten messed up as they were being given or received.
She worried that she had to call Howard back and tell him he hadn’t won after all—which would not be an envious task for anyone, much less a reporter covering her first election!
We decide it was best to call the registrar first and see what was going on. Gump confirmed that our numbers were right and that the state website was wrong. Gump was trying to get the correct posting online. And what a day she’d had already, with the Potomac Elementary School precinct having to be evacuated, for a while, because there was smoke in the building.
Meanwhile on Election Night, people were texting me, saying they were hearing that Howard had won but seeing the website that showed Bueche was the winner. Eventually, everything got straightened out.
I have to say that hasn’t happened before, in 30 years of doing this. But that’s one of the interesting things about Election Nights. To quote another famous Gump, they’re like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.