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For some, vote-counting steeped in tradition

For some, election day is just another day. But there are othersfor whom it is a ritual.

“I’m 73 today, and I’ve never missed an election,” saidBrookhaven native and local character Bennon Case on Monday. “I’vevoted every time there’s an election and I’ve picked a lot ofwinners and I’ve lost some.”

Case said through the years he’s seen quite a change not only inthe voters and their attitudes toward the importance of voting, butalso in the way people ran their campaign.

“People just politicked different back then than they do now.Today’s politics is nothing like it was years ago, people reallywere interested in it,” he said. “And people don’t turn out to voteno more, because they have really got away from politics.”

Case said campaigning was a full-time job for everyone back inhis day, even on election day itself.

“Back when I was young, people would politic up to midnight andnow they don’t do that anymore,” he said. “On election day when thepolls closed, there’d be about five or six heads in the windowswatching the poll workers counting the votes making sure nobodytook sides with candidates. They’d follow that box to thecourthouse to make sure.”

Until several years ago, the city would turn out downtown towatch the results be tabulated on a big blackboard. Brookhavenresidents would stay until the last results came in, and it was acommunity event, Case said.

“Back when I was young they’d have a blackboard downtown withall the candidates names on it,” he said. “They’d have someonecalling out boxes as they came in, and Loyd Star was always thelast box in and would determine who won.”

Today, most officials say, they like to gather with family andfriends and await the results at the polls, the courthouse, andvarious restaurants and other venues. There are several election”gathering places” set for this year in the neighborhoodssurrounding the courthouse, although some candidates say they planto just spend the evening at home.

City officials have watched the county elections with the reliefof knowing it’s not their battle this year. But they also recognizethe thrills and agonies that go along with the day.

“It’s an anxious time because you’re nervous and waiting on theresults of the election,” said Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron.”But it’s a relief when it’s over, it really is, especially comingout a winner.”

Ward Three Alderwoman Mary Wilson, whose husband is runningunopposed for District One supervisor, said in her householdthere’s really only one way to handle the stress.

“You get anxious for all the votes to get counted, and you’rekind of excited,” she said. “You believe you’ve won, but sometimesyou have those thoughts about how everything’s going to go. I justkeep praying through the stress.”

Alderman at Large Les Bumgarner said it’s easy to forget thetoll taken on a family during an election time as well.

“I think when someone first starts to run, they’re competitiveand they want to do well and represent themselves well, but as youget into it, it affects your whole family,” he said. “They want youto do well also, and it becomes a family matter very quickly.”

And the morning after always brings a sense of relief andgratitude, said Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes.

“When I woke up the next morning, I was filled with gratitudeand a sense of awe that the people would have committed themselvesto me as I committed to them to be their alderwoman, that was anoverwhelming thought,” she said.

After votes are counted in today’s primaries in state, regionaland county races, candidates are no doubt hoping to have the samefeelings of gratitude following their victories. Some candidates,however, will have to wait until runoffs on Aug. 28 or the generalelection on Nov. 6 to learn their electoral fates.