Clarksville, TN – On Election Day polls opened at 7:00am, but I didn’t get going till 9:30am. My first stop was to vote at Smith school. After I voted, I took a few pictures before I headed off to the Election Commission.
“The elections today have been busy, very busy,” said Rita Wilson, the chairwoman of the Montgomery County Election Commission. A lot of people decided that they wanted to vote today, but they had not bothered to check and see where they were supposed to vote. So we are having a big backlog of them coming in and phone calls about that. But I think that people are really excited about election day,” according to Wilson.
“The turnout has been really really good, we wish it would be like this in every election,” Wilson said.
I headed up Madison to the Madison Street United Methodist Church where I found Michael Harvey holding a Tim Barnes sign.
“I’m canvassing for Tim Barnes, he’s running for the Tennessee State Senate from District 22. I’m also supportive of the entire Democratic Party, I’m a Democrat myself,” said Michael Harvey. “I find it a great joy to be out here canvassing, anything to help out with the campaign. It’s very excellent. This my first time doing this in Tennessee, as I’m a Louisiana native and I used to help out there.”
At District 5B located in the rear of the Madison Street United Methodist Church, I found Andre Shipp and Taylor Pray along with a video camera doing exit polling for their election coverage class at Austin Peay State University.
They took the time to explain the process. “We’re doing interviews with people to see what with their opinions on the issues are, who they voted for, and why. Shipp explained, “This is the first time doing this. I wasn’t able to do it in 2008 because I wasn’t in school yet, but now that it’s 2012, and there is an election coverage class at Austin Peay State University, we have been able to learn more about the election process, and how to cover different situations in an election.”
Pray is currently interning at News Channel 5 in Nashville, and Shipp serves as the multimedia editor for the Austin Peay State University campus newspaper, The All State.
I then ran into Ward 4 councilman Wallace Redd. He was stationed at Byrns-Darden Elementary school in New Providence.
“I have been out here all morning waving to voters. Our campaign has gone good so far, as good as can be expected. The new Clarksville City Council will have a lot on their plate. We need to finish the noise ordinance, we need to take another stab at revising the city charter and I hope Mayor McMillan will bring that up again. Were going to finish the Greenway and of course we have an aggressive road improvement program underway.”
At District 2A located in the St. Bethlehem United Methodist Church, I met up with first-time voter Hayley Sloan and her sister Robin. Haley who said that Gay marriage was one of the primary issues on her mind when she came to cast her ballot. When asked, she said she was a Democrat, and that she had cast her vote to re-elect President Obama. “ I love most everything that President Obama stands for, but I’m a lot more terrified of Gov. Romney.”
Hayley credited her sister Robin for sparking her interest in politics, “My sister is very interested in politics, and has always told me how important it is to vote. She stressed that it is also important to know who you’re voting for, and what they stand for.”
Speaking about the experience of casting her first ballot, she said “It’s so exciting, and my sister was there cheering me on, it was wonderful.”
Then we met Valerie Throckmorton and Britney Singer, canvassing for State Senate candidate Mark Green. “Mark is just a genuine person,” said Singer. Throckmorton added, “I like that he has a military background. I like that he has a medical background, I think that with the issues that we have coming up with Obamacare and those kind of things. We need more people with that type of background.” Both described themselves as being very conservative.
“Things are going very good, I’m pleased. “I’ve tried to do a good job for Ward 8, and I pray that the people see fit to re-elect me. Trenton Road has been one of the major issues facing Ward 8. It’s a State Highway but people still want their Council-members working on getting it widened, Allen said. There have also been issues with the need for sidewalks, and we have been trying to get sidewalks into the various neighborhoods.”
Ward 9 City Councilman Joe Wallace was at Glenellen School Campaigning for his re-election.
“I think the campaign has gone really well. We have tried to run a positive campaign, and get out there to talk to as many of the people as possible. There’s been a lot of events, door-to-door canvassing, meeting with people, and a lot of getting on the phone and asking people for their support and I think it’s gone really well.”
At 7:00pm I was at the Montgomery County election commission waiting for the first ballots to come in when I caught up with Administrator of Elections, Vickie Koelman.
“Today has been crazy busy. There’s been a huge turnout. Overall, I think things have gone very well. We have been fielding calls from people who are lost, people who need to update their address, people who don’t know where to go, so we’ve been trying to help all of those people.”
“People either didn’t look at their card, they didn’t know whether go vote, so they just showed up at the wrong polling location, so the election clerk would have to call in, and we were helping them out.”
The other major problems arose from people who are not registered to vote, but wanted to vote in the election. “It hurts us alone, but more Montgomery County because of our transit nature with the military and our college population, where people are moving, and they don’t know whether they’re registered here, or whether they need to vote absentee. It can get confusing.”
She wanted to ensure voters that every single vote that was cast is counted whether it’s absentee, early voting, a provisional ballot, or at a voting machine.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the election process, the meetings of the election commission are open to the public and they meet the first Tuesday of every month
Koelman had 3 political science students from Austin Peay State University who were getting the chance to see an election from the inside. ” The students have been a tremendous help. They have been answering questions and trying to direct people to the right locations, checking to see if the registered to vote, and getting people pointed in the right direction.”
The voting machines and the sealed ballot boxes, along with the other various materials needed were unloaded and carried inside.
The ballots boxes seals were quickly checked to ensure that they had not been tampered with. Then election commission staff cut the seals off of each of the metal boxes. The seals along with the cards and various audit tapes were taken and fed into the central tabulator.
Once the cards, seals, and audit tapes were verified that they matched; the ballots on the smart cards were read and counted.
One further step remained to protect the integrity of the election. The machine which counted the votes could not have any external communications. The results were periodically transferred to a freshly formatted USB stick and then they were given to the Web tech who posted them on the election commission website.
After leaving the Election Commission, I went to the studios of WJZM 1400AM to catch their Election Night coverage. Dave Loos Jr, Greg Walker and the rest of the team were hard at work broadcasting results, along with commentary about the election. Adam Groves, Bill Harpel and Al Radford were also part of the coverage.
Next stop, Democratic Party Headquarters.
At one end of the building a large flat screen TV had been surrounded with chairs filled with supporters. I found Credo Amouzouvik, the Democratic Party Candidate Candidate for the 7th Congressional District of Tennessee who was there with his family waiting to see the results of his race come in. A late comer to the race Amouzouvik was cautiously optimistic.
“Viewing the fact that we started late, I’m very satisfied with what has been done. I am humbled and honored for having this opportunity to run. I pray that the voters of the 7th Congressional District give me a chance to be their voice in Washington, DC. What has really touched me has been going to this district and meeting people; some people are really hurting and that has encouraged me to keep working, hopefully for a victory.”
Regardless of the outcome of this this election Amouzouvik said he is not ready to call it quits. “No matter the outcome tonight’s election, tomorrow I begin to my campaign anew,” said Amouzouvik.
Next stop was at the Riverview Inn, where Tennessee State Senate District 22 Candidate Tim Barnes, Tennessee House of Representatives District 67 candidate Joe Pitts, and Clarksville City Council Ward 5 candidate Valerie Guzman could be found.
Senator Tim Barnes said, “I’m very pleased with our campaign. I’ve been very strong on the ground, and we got a lot of volunteer effort canvassing the district, especially in the last week. Barnes also said that there was too much money pouring into political campaigns.
“I have never seen a campaign where that much money was involved. People don’t use that money to say good things, they use it to say bad things. I think that we need to consider some kind of reforms. It dilutes the common person’s voice. If you don’t have a lot of money to put into politics, than the person who gets the politicians attention is the one that controls the PAC money, and that’s not right. And that’s certainly not what our founding fathers intended” Barnes said.
Valerie Guzman’s race was called fairly quickly. I asked her how she felt about her new role in city government.
“It is very humbling. This morning as I was standing out there and it was cold and I thought, what if no one votes for me? I decided I would still be excited because I tried. I’ll work hard for the city.”
When it became evident that he had lost re-election, Senator Barnes called Mark Green and conceded defeat.
Then State Representative Joe Pitts introduced Barnes to his supporters to thank them.
Barnes began by thanking his campaign manager Kim Smith Taylor.
“I just want to say I am so grateful to so many people who work so hard in this campaign. I can’t name them all, but I can tell you that Kim Smith Taylor took an entire summer off to be my campaign manager. If it wasn’t for her, I never would have had the privilege and the honor to serve in the State Senate for the last 4 years. I will always be honored and blessed to have had that opportunity to serve. Tonight when I think about all the good friends that I’ve made over those years I am very very grateful.”
Barnes spoke again about the negative influence that outside political contributions had on the race, “I feel like we ran a very good race. We were outspent 5 to 1, and it’s hard to deal with that. But based on the resources that we had, we absolutely maximized everything. We had people going door-to-door that were excellent. You can never predict who would be good and who would not, but there was so many people who just rose to the occasion. And I appreciate it.”
Barnes then talked about how his faith, and that of his constituents help guide him through his time in the State Senate.
“I also have been so blessed in the way that my faith has grown and the many people that have been praying for me. We don’t know the plan, we see a little bit of it but I can tell you right now that I’m at peace.”
Barnes then shared his phone call to Mark Green.
“Let me say that when I called Mark Green, I said you’re going to be representing some very fine people and I want you to take care of him. And I really mean that.” He then told the gathering, “We also need to pray for Mark Green. We want him to be successful, because when we want our elected officials to fail there is something wrong with us. We need to make sure that we pray for him, pray for his family, because I can tell you that public service is hard on your family. That may be one of the great blessings is that I’ll have more time now to spend with my kids. But we do need to think about Mark Green, and pray for him.”
Barnes then went around the room and thanked everybody individually.
Next, I was off to Mark Green election headquarters at the Hilton Garden Inn. Green had already made his acceptance speech, but told me afterwards, “Right now, it still hasn’t completely sunk in. But I’m very honored and humbled that the people of district 22 have put their trust in me. And I’m excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work. We’re elated, ecstatic, those are a few words that come to mind.”
Green continued, “First up on plate for the new legislature will be health care. We will have to study the impact of President Obama’s health care initiatives on the citizens of Tennessee. Clearly getting jobs and growing Tennessee’s economy are very important. We have to recruit new businesses to our area. And get the infrastructure fixed so that we can remain competitive.”
Green attributed positive leadership as the ultimate cause of his success.
“I think if you ask me what made the difference in this campaign, it’s the face we ran a very positive campaign and I think that the people of the community were hungry for positive leadership and I think that’s what we try to do. I think in the end, that’s what made the difference.”