I'm trying to stay positive in planning for our Election Night coverage on April 2nd--but the looming mess that will be the Oshkosh Common Council race is already weighing on me. I'm only half-joking when I tell folks here at the radio ranch that we should probably plan on starting our coverage at midnight and going until about 8:00 the next morning.
Oshkosh is notoriously slow for tabulating and posting election results (many an election night Bob Burnell and I have sat here waiting for those "last few precincts" to come in--while Appleton and Fond du Lac have had their final numbers up for hours already), and now we're going to throw in SIX write-in candidates--one of whom is guaranteed to win a spot on the Council? That means every ballot will have to be hand-counted (because the machine can only scan that there has been a write-in, not which candidate was put on the line). That process can only be done after the polls have closed and all of the absentee ballots have also been run through. If it takes three hours to compile straight machine counts on a regular election night, how long are we looking at for that hand-count?
And I can already imagine the poor poll workers trying to decipher what people are writing on the ballots. That black felt-tip pen they give you at the polls isn't exactly the best writing utensil. And having had to read a lot of other people's handwriting over the years, it may be like trying to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics on some of those ballots. And what happens if a voter puts down the first name of one candidate and the last name of another candidate? Who gets that vote? Time for a call down to the City Clerk! And let's hope nobody loses count two-thirds of the way through a stack of a thousand ballots. "Oops, I guess we have to start all over again."
I can already hear the phone calls to the NewsRoom that day. "The poll workers didn't list so-and-so when I asked about the write-in candidates!" Or, "Somebody had a handwritten list of candidates posted on the wall at such-and-such polling place. You can't do that!" And of course there will be "Hey, why didn't anyone tell me there were write-in candidates for City Council?"
And what happens when the numbers are finally tallied and all six of the write-in candidates are separated by just a few votes. Get ready for a recount of the hand count!! With every ballot having to be checked by six people, over and over and over again.
I would never tell you NOT to vote--so please do head to the polls on April 2nd. Just do your homework ahead of time--know who the write-ins are (and how to spell their names correctly)--and practice perfect penmanship so the little old ladies at each site don't have to get out the magnifying glasses to count your ballot.
If we all do our part, we should be able to declare a winner by oh................Thursday, April 4th.