It’s difficult to adequately describe what Election Day (and night … OK, mostly night) is like for reporters.
It’s not as fun as, say, a sporting event such as Opening Day or the Super Bowl. But it’s definitely got as much anticipation. It’s a bigger deal than the first day of school but not as rewarding as Christmas.
It’s fun to be in the thick of things on Election Day, and to be one of the people actually “in the know,” ready to share information with everyone else.
As the funny folks over at Stuff Journalists Like put it, Election Day is one time that journalism still really matters. Even with results often posted online by elections officials, we’re still the ones who most people turn to for finding out about winners and losers.
Election Day was a little weird for me this year. I spent a few hours in the early evening interviewing voters, as well as the pro-slots organization. (A referendum on whether to approve zoning for slots machines was a big deal in my county this year.)
As the evening stretched on, I filed dispatches to my newspaper’s election blog from my car. This is what that looked like:
Then at 8 p.m., I rolled into the county Board of Elections. My plan was to set up my laptop, and send back results to the newsroom and also work on a story about County Council winners and maybe post some more blog entries. I was assigned to send the results back because the Board of Elections’ website has proven to be painfully slow. The idea was that I could do it faster.
I was hit with a curveball, however, when I was told that cell phone and computer use were prohibited at the Board of Elections. That made my night challenging, but I worked it as best I could.
Here’s how I described it on the election blog:
As the votes were processed, election workers brought a disc up to a laptop computer, pressed a few buttons and soon the numbers scrolled on a large screen.
Each time the numbers were updated, the room quieted down as campaign workers, journalists and other observers took note of the numbers or scribbled them down.
After a few minutes, the exodus outside would begin. The Board of Elections does not allow cell phone or computer use inside the building, so campaign volunteers and journalists rushed outside to call or text or “tweet” their numbers.
Then everyone would run back inside for the whole thing to start all over again.
The good news is, after the election, I spoke with the county elections director, who said he’d reconsider the no-cell phone and no-laptop rule. Here’s hoping that things are a little easier in 2012.