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Buzz is subdued at courthouse

News editor

Shortly after polls closed around the county at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Matt Classen settled down in a chair by the treasurer’s office in the courthouse.

The retired Marion banker claimed a prime seat for the main event, the updating of vote totals for races scrawled in blue and black on a large marker board on an easel. Sheriff Robert Craft, unopposed and assured of re-election, stood nearby.

At the south end of the hall, a platter of sandwiches and generous smattering of snacks awaited precinct workers after they dropped off ballots placed on a table beneath historic pictures of county officials

The first flurry of ballots came in about 7:40 p.m. from Hillsboro, Lincolnville, and Florence. Turnout was good, workers reported, and the new electronic check-in system worked smoothly.

The atmosphere in Lincolnville was a bit more festive, as three poll workers, included Karen Konarik and Rosalie Rudolph, celebrated birthdays, even dressing up with beads and festive hats.

Konarik said turnout was better than the last presidential election, even though some familiar voters didn’t show, likely due to early voting, she said.

“We had a real good turnout,” she said. “People were happy to come vote.”

By the time Konarik and Rudolph got on the elevator, a few more interested observers had arrived, including county treasurer candidate Rhonda Casey-Curry and write-in commission candidate Mike Beneke.

About a dozen people in the hall turned their heads when clerk Tina Spencer came out to post the first round of returns from advance voting.

There was little reaction until she filled in the numbers for the 2nd District Commissioner race: Daniel Holub, 308; Dianne Novak, 406; write-in, 67.

Eyes widened, conversations began to buzz, and small exclamations of “Wow” and “Look at that” could be heard.

It would be another hour before county numbers would be updated, but there was plenty to talk about. About half of the 20 or so people there had smartphones in hand, hanging on every update of what appeared to be a Donald Trump upset in the making.

Republican county chairman Todd Heitschmidt stood near the treasurer’s office, alternately talking and watching. It was an atmosphere he had reveled in since childhood, when his parents both held elective offices.

“Enjoyable, fun, interesting,” he said. “From the junkie side of things, it’s interesting taking in all of the propaganda from the press, from the proponents and opponents and issues of candidates. It’s kind of fun to see if you’ve guessed right. No surprises so far.”

Several had left by the time eight precincts were added to the totals, and the chatter picked up briefly as Novak’s lead over Holub stretched to 561-320.

Classen wasn’t there to see it. He’d get the final results at coffee in the morning, he said when he left.

Perhaps he was a trend setter. Perhaps everyone left had seen enough to read the predictable signs. As Heitschmidt had noted, no surprises. Twenty-three other precincts wouldn’t change a thing.

The only election suspense was playing out on television. With a few snapping up scraps from the snack table, the hall was nearly empty within 20 minutes.

The only sound in the hallway of any note was the clack of ballot counting machines. The remaining interest among the staff was to get done and get home, where after a long day, sleep would be a priority.

Last modified Nov. 9, 2016

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