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Still trying to recover from election night

The primary election is essentially over. Canvassing will need to be done in the coming days to make everything official, but, for the most part, everything seemed go as smoothly as can be expected.

Local results were finalized and announced by about 9:30 p.m., then came the interviews with winners, driving back to the office, writing, editing, double-checking numbers, sending to our other area newspapers, receiving articles from some of those newspapers, editing more, etc. Elections always mean long nights for those of us in this business.

Fortunately, there is still some tradition left in our area and most of the candidates for county commission, county clerk and circuit court clerk were at the Hancock County Courthouse awaiting the final numbers. It made it easier for us (myself and my colleagues from the local television stations) to get our interviews.

I’ve covered many elections in my 20 plus years in this business. In Weirton, the city building is buzzing on election night, as officials and onlookers gather within to watch as votes are tabulated. New Cumberland traditionally posts the results on the door of the New Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department. In recent years, especially for statewide contests, I’ve been able to just sit in the office and periodically check results from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website.

I have never, in all my years, had the opportunity to be at the courthouse for an election. I went up just before polls closed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, sitting with my friend and colleague Taylor, taking some time to catch up and awaiting the first returns. Others came in, with reporters, candidates and their families, crowding into the hall near the entrance.

When the first batch of results were ready, accounting for the first five returned precincts as well as early and absentee voting, everyone was ushered outside. Another batch of results were brought out as soon as the first were read, and then it was just waiting for each update, standing outside over the next couple of hours. Thankfully, it was a nice night.

Most of the numbers were close throughout the night, especially the early returns. Whether it was the expected low voter turnout or fairly even support among the candidates, I don’t know. The top four candidates for school board were fairly consistent, trading positions with each round of announcements. Remember, it was fewer than 60 votes separating the third- and fourth-place finisher in that race. There was an 85-vote difference for county clerk. County commissioner was decided by 97 votes, with Brett Lemley having the early lead before incumbent Paul Cowey pulled ahead. Ted Arneault Jr. was 57 votes behind Lemley as the night ended.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, there are 18,503 registered voters in Hancock County, with only 5,026 ballots cast. Of those, 3,065 were Republicans, 1,906 were Democrats, and 55 were non-partisan ballots.

Brooke County was a bit lower, at least in terms of percentages. There are 14,446 registered voters in my home county, with 3,618 ballots cast. Republicans cast 1,817 ballots, with 1,696 Democrats and 105 non-partisan.

I know there weren’t that many interesting elections on the ballot this year, but the relative closeness of these results continues to show how each vote can make a difference.

I don’t expect the general election in November to be much better, but I hope it will be. Brooke County will have a contested commission race, and we’ll have one state Senate race and all of our House of Delegates seats on the ballot, as well as our U.S. House of Representatives seat.

We have a few months to pay attention, and a lot can change in that time. I continue to encourage all registered voters to do their research into all of the candidates. Be an informed voter and don’t just listen to the rhetoric.

As for me, I’m hoping to use the next few days to catch up on some sleep.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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