Who’s that knocking at the door?
Janet Paddock said her job Tuesday was to make sure every registered voter in Franklin County who wanted to cast a ballot had the opportunity to do so.
Even if that meant the county clerk had to personally go to the homes of Pomona voters who received the wrong ballots at the polling place.
“Fourteen voters received Pomona Township ballots instead of Pomona city ballots, so I tried to contact all of them to let them know they could come back to the polls before 7 [p.m.] and cast a provisional ballot — I even went to two of their homes,” Paddock said. “They wouldn’t be able to vote twice in the school board race [by casting a provisional ballot], but it would give them an opportunity to vote in the city election.”
That appeared to be the only blemish on what otherwise seemed to be a trouble-free day for Paddock and her staff during her first Election Day as county clerk.
“I thought it went pretty smooth,” Paddock said. “In these city and school board elections, it’s tough on poll workers because they are dealing with multiple ballots. Hayes Township, for instance, has pieces of four school districts — 287, 289, 290 and 348 — so there were four ballots at that location.”
In all, Paddock had about 80 workers manning the polls — fewer than was required for the November presidential election, she said.
Even so, Paddock said, the final results all were tabulated shortly after 8:30 p.m. — 1 1/2 hours after the polls closed.
“I didn’t think that was too bad,” she said. “The results came in pretty quick. We had poll workers lined up at the [county clerk’s office] door on some occasions waiting to turn in their [election] bags.”
At any given time, more than two dozen people mingled outside her doorway — and even a few huddled inside her office entryway — taking photos of the latest results with their cellphones as Paddock used a marker to write them on a large, erasable white board.
“It was a lot less stressful for me this election, being on this side,” Paddock said of watching the returns come in during the county clerk race last August, when she unseated longtime County Clerk Shari Perry in the primary election. Perry had served as clerk for 16 years. Paddock went on to easily win the seat in November.
Good turnout, exciting night
“I really felt for some of the candidates — I knew I couldn’t get out of their way fast enough after writing the results on the board,” Paddock said Wednesday as she paused to catch her breath. “We had a lot of people here last night. It was pretty exciting.”
About 15 percent — 2,608 — of the county’s 17,206 registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election. About 2,400 voters turned out for the previous city/school board election, Paddock said. She attributed the increase to the interest in the contested West Franklin school board races.
With 10 candidates vying for four open seats on the West Franklin school board, all four incumbents on the ballot were defeated Tuesday in what has become a contentious debate among district patrons over a proposal to consolidate the district into one campus at Pomona.
“I could tell that a lot of the people here last night were interested in that race,” Paddock said.
The Ottawa school board and Ottawa city commission races, which also were contested, drew a good turnout, Paddock said, though she said she still needed to analyze the numbers in more detail.
“Then, you had some races which weren’t contested, and you had a couple of cases of where maybe five positions on the council were open but only two people were on the ballot,” she said. “The number of candidates [in a race] will play a big factor in the turnout.”
‘This is where it all starts’
The election results are unofficial until they are canvassed by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the courthouse courtroom. Until then, Paddock said, she and her staff would be busy preparing for the canvass.
But Paddock said she did allow herself time to go eat lunch at school with her daughter Raygen, who was celebrating her seventh birthday Wednesday. Paddock’s husband, Justin, and her three daughters came to watch the election results come in Tuesday night.
“We had to go out and get cupcakes last night for my daughter’s class today,” Paddock said. “Mom wasn’t going to be baking cupcakes on election night.”
Paddock also enlisted the help of some local 4-H students who were raising funds to take a trip to Washington, D.C. The youths opened doors for people entering the courthouse and helped poll workers carry in their heavy red election bags.
“I thought it was good for the kids to see how the process worked,” Paddock said. “This is where it all starts. I think a lot of the politicians in Washington got their start in politics at the local level. I think once kids are aware of how the election process works, they like getting involved.”
As with any new task, Paddock said, she took voluminous notes and would tweak some procedures — such as how election bags are distributed to poll workers — before the next election.
“But, overall, I thought it went well,” a smiling Paddock said.