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Behind the scenes during the tally

4/3/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Donna Maskus, who has worked in the Ellis County clerk's office for 33 years, was elected county clerk in November. Bobbi Dreiling was hired to take over Maskus' old position as deputy clerk. She's been on the job not even three months.

Tuesday's election was a first for both of them: Maskus in charge as the county clerk, and Dreiling's first election -- ever.

"Tonight's a little bit different for me," Maskus said.

When the polls closed at 7 p.m., Dreiling was holed up in an office helping count the paper ballots -- something Maskus used to do.

They used an electronic machine that could count 350 paper ballots per minute, a far cry from the day when every ballot was counted by hand. Maskus appreciates the technology that's been used since 1996 to help speed the tallying process.

"I remember when we tallied paper ballots and we strung them with a needle, used needle and thread," Maskus said. "I remember those days. We could have been here until 2 a.m. and reported back at work at 8 a.m."

After the paper ballots go through the electronic tabulating machine, a three-person resolution board goes over every paper ballot to record write-in votes in a tally book.

Curtis Weilert has come in on election nights since 1996 to combine the electronic votes with the paper ballots on a computer in Maskus' office. Unofficial results spewed out at approximately 8:30 p.m., but there was a glitch with one voting machine at the American Legion polling site. That machine's votes were added to the totals a little after 9 p.m.

The final tally from Tuesday's results are unofficial until the vote is canvassed Monday. Still to be counted were provisional ballots.

"There's always one or two," glitches, Weilert said. "Nothing we can't handle. It would be boring if it wasn't something."

Maskus said the difference between past elections and this one for her was "the responsibility." As she has in past years, Maskus visited polling sites in the county. She made it to all but two Tuesday.

Dreiling was happy to get through her first election. Having Maskus to lean on was a big help.

"Very comforting," Dreiling said. "She's been great at training me, and explaining things as we go."

One election down, two to go. Besides Tuesday, there were two other elections scheduled in a two-month span in the county — a special election May 14 for a proposed county sales tax, and a June 4 bond issue vote for Ellis USD 388.

"Since this is new, I don't have any comments, good or bad," Dreiling said about her first-ever election. "Ask me in June."