Stringing for the Associated Press

*On May 15, I had the privilege of being a stringer for the Associated Press. Here is my account of the evening, as published in the Omaha Press Club Newsletter.

May 15, 2018. 7:55pm. It is a beautiful evening in Omaha, five minutes before polls close, and the Douglas County Election Commission is abuzz with excitement. Chairs are being dismantled and replaced with counting tables, and at the stroke of 8:00, a volunteer cheers “Hear ye, the polls are closed!” As a first-time stringer for the Associated Press, it was an exciting yet intimidating experience for me to say the least.

8:30 pm – After recording the initial tallies, I call into the Associated Press to report tallies. Voter turnout has been low according to volunteers, and while some races show little to no competition, others come within hundreds and sometimes tens of votes. Thank goodness for the help of dedicated volunteers as well as Pack 5, a troop of Boy Scouts dedicated to running the ballots from cars into the Douglas County Election Commission for counting. At 8:45, the next set of results are expected in.

8:45 pm – A slight lull descends upon the volunteers until the next carts filled with ballots rolls in. Boy Scouts continue to boost morale, skipping and running with ballots safely tucked in their arms. They, unlike the haggard volunteers who have been working since 7:00am, are tireless in their energy and high spirits.

9:30 pm – Almost every race I have been assigned to follow has been decided, with the exception of the Democratic Congressional contest between Brad Ashford and Kara Eastman. At this hour, Eastman leads Ashford by a mere 11 votes it appears to be anyone’s race.

10:00 pm – Most volunteers have gone home. Those that remain work feverishly to organize voter registration forms and booklets. They collate every single one into numerical order to ensure each has been accounted for.

11:40 pm All that remain at the election headquarters are the bare bones of its staff, the Election Commissioner himself – and this solitary Associated Press Stringer in the lobby awaiting final results.

11:55 pm – After a long but educational evening of tallying and phoning, I conclude my final call with the Associated Press and head home, followed by the remaining skeleton crew of Election Commission staff.

Now I eagerly await the November general election and hope to be selected as a stringer once again for the “main event.”

 

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