Election night, then and now

When I started at the Record 26 years ago, election night coverage was much different than it is today.  Back then after the polls closed, the basement of the county courthouse in downtown Stockton was designated as “Election Central.” In that room, results were posted on several TV monitors as the punch-card ballots were tallied by machine in the Canlis Building nearby. It was a slow process, but it had its advantages. Because it was the place where the vote counts were posted the soonest, not only did the media gather there, but many, if not most, of the candidates usually showed up for at least part of the night. For pictures, it was very convenient. Often candidates for a particular office were in the same room, and occasionally we could get them together in the same shot. Those candidates who did have their own election night parties had a representatives at “Election Central” to phone back the results as they came in.

Today, candidates have their own gatherings, whether at a restaurant or someone’s home. The digital age as ushered in an era of immediacy in election results. On this past election night, I covered two events. In the past I probably would have been able to shoot more people, because they would have all been at the courthouse at some point during the night.

I went to the No on Measure H gathering at Valley Brew on the Miracle Mile in Stockton. There they were viewing a laptop computer set to monitor the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters’ website. The firefighters could watch in more or less real time as their cause went down to defeat.

At the soiree for 11th Congressional District Republican candidate David Harmer at the Le Bistro restaurant in Stockton, a couple TVs were turned to news coverage of the election but were hard to hear over the crowd of about 50 to 60 people in the bar of the restuarant. Stockton City councilman Dale Fritchen was one up on the crowd though. He was able to watch the results being posted right in the palm of his hands via his smartphone — a far cry from the old “Election Central” which was state of the art for its time.

To the delight of the crowd, Harmer started out strong, but late in the night, incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney’s numbers caught up and eventually he took a (very) slim lead of less than 200 votes. With many mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, the race is still too close to call. I guess even with all the technological advancements over the years, there are some things you just can’t rush.

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