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OPINION COLUMNS

Will election history repeat itself?

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, November 7, 2012

As of the writing of this column, no races had been decided – either locally or nationally.

Well, I guess technically most of the county-level races were decided back in May during the primary.

The November general election around here used to be the big night. I remember the first election I covered as a member of the Messenger staff. It was the 2000 presidential election.

That was the election that signaled a big shift locally from a Democratic stronghold to a Republican stronghold. With Republican George W. Bush on the ballot, local Republican candidates seemed to benefit. When the dust settled, the results showed that 21 percent of Wise County residents had voted a Republican straight ticket. Another 15 percent voted a Democratic straight ticket. A record 16,458 of 29,900 registered voters (55 percent) turned out.

On election night, I quickly discovered where I could find candidates for a quote. If they were Republican, they would be at Mattie’s (the building that now houses Sweetie Pie’s) and Democrats would be at Courthouse Cafe (now Xchan Thai House).

In 2004, another voter turnout record was set when 59.4 percent of 33,900 registered voters in the county cast ballots. The wave of local Republican dominance continued to grow, as only one Democrat won election – and it was close as Dennis Hudson edged out Tom Bishop for Precinct 1 constable. In that election, 27 percent voted a straight Republican ticket.

In 2008, Republicans finally completed their sweep of Wise County, winning every local election. Voter turnout was 58.5 percent. A whopping 39 percent voted straight Republican and 12 percent voted straight Democratic.

One race that might have been hurt by the early voting numbers that year was the vote on Weatherford College Wise County. Although 21,026 people voted overall in the election, only 16,609 voted on the college issue. I can recall several people complaining that they didn’t see the college issue on their ballot. The problem is, when you mark a straight ticket ballot, it only marks the races with party affiliations. You still have to go into the ballot and mark the “for” or “against” items, and apparently several voters failed to do that.

Local voter turnout was expected to set another record yesterday, especially if early voting was any indication. Election Administrator Lannie Noble said his office was planning on 13,000 to 14,000 voters on Election Day. To help accommodate the increase, 17 more voting machines were added to polling locations this year as compared to 2008.

Interestingly, across the state, early voting numbers were down. According to a story reported by NBC Channel 5 in Dallas, only 39.3 percent voted early this year compared to 42 percent in 2008.

Much has changed over the years. This year, Republicans were to meet at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and Democrats were to meet at Reunion on the Square in Decatur to watch national election returns.

One can only hope we had one party with a clear victory celebration last night and not another repeat of the 2000 presidential election which took weeks to decide.

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