“Polls thronged in bitter election”
“Local fights get attention of the voters”
One party’s gains were described as an “invasion.”
The headlines weren’t from Tuesday night in Washington County, but they could have been.
They actually appeared in the Washington Reporter in 1933 and 1935 as New Deal-Democrats swept into county offices that, for years, had been reliably Republican.
More than 80 years later, the tables turned Tuesday as Republicans made a clean sweep of contested row office races and regained a majority on the Washington County board of commissioners for the first time in 20 years.
Commissioner Harlan Shober had asked commission chairman and running mate Larry Maggi for the opportunity to speak Wednesday morning at the regular agenda-setting session that takes place in the seventh-floor conference room. Maggi was reelected, but Shober was not, and, at age 75, he will relinquish his seat on the board in January to Republican Nick Sherman, 40.
Shober said he wanted “to set the tone going forward,” and thanked his colleagues for the opportunity to work with them for the past eight years.
He said he was proud of what they had been able to accomplish, and also credited department heads gathered around the conference table for their hard work.
“Fair enough?” he concluded and his words were received with applause, including a hand from Republican Diana Irey Vaughan, who received the most votes Tuesday night.
Tuesday’s election was also the swan song for Washington County’s direct-record voting machines, which have been in use since 2006.
The commissioners are poised to purchase new voting machines with a paper trail for use in the 2020 presidential primary nomination process for $2.8 million through a state contract from Election Systems and Software LLC of Omaha, Neb., that does not require bidding.
Besides voting machines, the package includes image scanners, precinct-level scanners, software, services and training.
The county will also be purchasing an annual $126,840 maintenance agreement for five years.
Melanie Ostrander, Washington County director of elections, said part of the contract with ES&S calls for the firm to arrange for the disposal of the old voting machines, which will be handled at the end of the year, after Nov. 5 vote totals are certified, by Iron Mountain Data and Records Management Inc.
Her elections office was busy counting 1,230 absentee ballots Wednesday, and the elections board is scheduled to convene at 9:30 a.m. today to review 37 provisional ballots to determine if they are eligible for a full count, a partial count or no count, based on voter registration records, residence and eligibility.
Turnout in Washington County was 32.1 percent, which will rise slightly once all absentee ballots are tabulated.
In the race for an open seat in the register of wills office, Republican James Roman held on to his election-night lead throughout the counting Wednesday of absentee ballots. Roman now has 22,965 votes, gaining 497, while Democrat Suzanne Archer came up short with 22,375, picking up 666 absentees.
Democrat Mary Jo Poknis, register of wills and clerk of orphans’ court, declined to seek a fourth, four-year term.
The Greene County elections office, which saw Republicans take control of the commissioners and district attorney offices from Democrats, was also working with absentee ballots Wednesday afternoon.
Greene Elections Director Tina Kiger estimated about 440 absentee ballots were cast.
Turnout in Greene County was 43.6% without figuring in the absentee ballots.
Canvass boards in both counties begin their tasks, such as tabulating write-in votes, Friday.
In Greene County, this involves sorting through 2,901 write-ins – without absentee ballots – in the district attorney and sheriff races.
Charlie Jones fell short in his quest to be elected to a two-year term as sheriff because of the death of Brian Tennant. Democrat Marcus Simms prevailed.
Republican David Russo will be Greene County’s next district attorney. Patrick Fitch, who lost in the Democratic primary to Jessica Phillips, attempted to stage a comeback Tuesday, but failed to capture the office.
Monday is the Veterans Day holiday when county offices are closed.
“I’m hoping by end of the day Tuesday for write-ins, but for the county races, I don’t expect anything will change,” Kiger said.