Ellis County’s two political parties and their candidates each will have their own twist on election night.
After the polls close at 7 p.m. this evening, Republican candidate for the 111th District, Barb Wasinger, will be at a private watch party at an undisclosed location. Her opponent, Eber Phelps, the Democrat Incumbent, will be at the Kansas Democratic Party field office, 1502 Vine St.
“Our’s is open to the public,” said Ellis County Democratic Party Chairman Henry Schwaller IV. “It’s free, and everyone is welcome to come.”
Wasinger’s co-chair for her campaign, Ellis County Commissioner Dean Haselhorst, said Monday evening after the commission’s regular meeting, that he’ll probably be at the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main St., where votes are being counted.
“I’ll cut milo like we do every night until about eight, and then I plan on coming here,” Haselhorst said.
Throughout the early evening today, following the required protocol for handling ballots, volunteer poll workers from across the county will filter in to the administrative center delivering the big locked metal ballot boxes to Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus.
From there, the boxes will go downstairs to be unlocked, and the ballots counted, checked and rechecked by a team of Clerk’s Office employees and election volunteers.
Schwaller and Phelps said they’ll probably shuttle back and forth throughout the evening between the Clerk’s Office and the Democratic party office. The Democrats will have light snacks and beverages for party goers, Schwaller said.
Part of the evening, Schwaller hopes to watch the ballots being counted. “We’re interested in the process, so we’ll be here with some of our volunteers,” he said. “it’s a very social event.”
Schwaller remembers back in the day, not even 10 years ago, when the Clerk’s Office was still in the Ellis County Courthouse. Democrats and Republicans, he said, would sit on the steps of the courthouse and talk together as they waited for results to come in.
“It’s always been a tradition to sit and wait,” he said, recalling how someone from the County Clerk’s office, back then, would come out from time to time to report the detailed results.
“It was very old-timey,” Schwaller said. “They’d write the results on a chalkboard, with the votes by ward and by precinct.”
Things have changed at the administrative center.
“Now they bring us a piece of paper,” he said, “and we all huddle around it.”
Someone from the party at the administrative center will be texting vote totals to the field office as they are announced by the Clerk’s Office, Schwaller said.
The Hays Daily News will be posting vote totals throughout the evening on Facebook and have a live look at statewide results at hdnews.net
Earlier in the day Monday, Ellis County Republican Party Chairman Dustin Roths said he was invited to Topeka for the watch party of Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach, but he’s decided instead to stick around Hays.
“There’s no official watch party,” said Roths, “Barb’s is a private one.” So he isn’t sure where he’ll be viewing results.
Wasinger declined to say where her party will be, noting that it’s private and only for family and friends.
Sen. Jerry Moran is in town as well for election day.
“We did get contacted by Senator Moran’s staff,” Roths said, noting they wanted to know if watch parties were planned.
Moran and his staff, including those from D.C., are having a staff retreat this week on the Fort Hays State University campus.
Today they were heading to Plainville to check out the downtown and stop at Ruder Oil Co.’s gas station, where Will Ruder would host them. For the evening, they were set to be back in Hays at The Golden Q, 809 Ash St.
“I want my staff to get to know this part of Kansas too, especially those who aren’t from Kansas,” Moran said. “We’ll be at The Q tonight to watch the election results come in.”
John Walz, independent candidate for the open Ellis County Commission seat, said he’ll probably be at the administrative center Tuesday evening.
County Commissioner Marcy McClelland, who lost the Republican nomination to Butch Schlyer in the August primary for the county commission seat, had her plans figured out too.
“I don’t know of anybody having a watch party,” she said. “I’m gonna stay home.”
Elsewhere in town, the American Democracy Project of Fort Hays State University is hosting an Election Night Watch Party with free pizza, according to their Facebook page.
The event starts at 6:30 p.m. in Cody Commons of the Memorial Union on campus and will include games and giveaways as results roll in.
In one early return, the project has already reported on Facebook the results of their Mock Election, in which students practiced voting in the Kansas governor’s race. Democrat Laura Kelly had 87 percent to Republican Kris Kobach’s 6.4 percent. And in a race between Batman and Superman, Batman captured 54 percent of the vote, to Superman’s 29 percent, they reported.