By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Letter to Readers: Masked election night slow and quiet

Marcus Larson/News-Register##A team of volunteers go through the slow process of adjudicating write-ins on turned in ballots.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##A team of volunteers go through the slow process of adjudicating write-ins on turned in ballots.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Yamhill County Clerk Brian Van Bergen and volunteer Sara Price go through the procedure for collecting ballots with other volunteers that travel to each ballot box.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Yamhill County Clerk Brian Van Bergen and volunteer Sara Price go through the procedure for collecting ballots with other volunteers that travel to each ballot box.

I’ve been going to the Yamhill County Clerk’s Office on election nights since the early 1980s, when ballots were carried from live polling places, rather than arriving in the mail.

Tuesday’s election was different from all others because of social distancing and rules about large gatherings — just like almost everything is different these days. 

When I arrived at the clerk’s office in the old post office at Fourth and Evans streets, a voter was in the lobby filling out his ballot. That’s not unusual at 7:50 p.m. on election night, but his attire was — he wore a mask as he checked the boxes. 

Of course, I was wearing a mask, too, as was News-Register photographer Marcus Larson and the one other person waiting for County Clerk Brian Van Bergen to print out the election results.

Usually, a small crowd gathers — several candidates and their supporters and election fans, eager to see how Yamhill County voted.

Van Bergen and his staff members wore masks, too, and undoubtedly the people in the bowels of the building also were masked as they checked signatures and slit open envelopes to reveal secret ballots. I didn’t see the signature verifiers — they were spaced here and there so they wouldn’t be in contact with one another.

The clerk usually distributes printouts and updates the official website moments after the clock reaches 8 p.m. This time, the clock kept ticking — Van Bergen later explained the new software was counting write-ins, as well as regular votes, which usually aren’t completed until a few days after the election.

For the first time, names such as Gomer Pyle, Bugs Bunny and Frank Costanza were included in the first report of votes — funny, perhaps, but hardly necessary, especially when we were holding our collective breath to see the early results of the county commissioner race and other important contests.

Van Bergen eliminated the write-in tally before the next ballot count, and he appeared in a good mood when I interviewed him about 11 p.m.

Both still wearing masks, we stood outside to talk. It was a warm evening, and completely quiet — no sound of election night parties emanating from local bars and restaurants, another difference related to the pandemic.

 

 

 

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