By Chris Johnson
After the polls closed there was a small calm before the storm, and it was not the heavy rain passing through Ogle County March 15.
Ogle County Clerk Rebecca Huntley was overseeing her final election and her staff was in the courthouse basement waiting for ballot boxes to be returned.
Once the first box arrived, there would be no breaks for election workers because this would be the busiest two hours.
At 7:48 p.m, the first box arrived.
“Lafayette Township,” Beth Lancaste, an election judge from Ashton said as she carried the box into the courthouse. “Seventy-five voters turned out. That is 65 percent.”
“That’s awesome,” Huntley said. “You must have been running out of ballots.”
With the first percent reporting were 51 more to arrive before the night was through.
The precincts are in 34 buildings throughout the county.
Huntley said she thinks having fewer voting locations throughout the county is a trend for the future.
Voting centers are the way to go because it is hard to get election judges,” she said. “I plan on being an election judge.”
Each voting machine needs to be calibrated to ensure the accuracy with counting the paper ballots.
Huntley said each machine has a stack of ballots that needs to be run through it and the results are verified. At that point the machine can be sent to the precincts.
This process is time consuming but needs to be completed with every election. Once the candidates are approved for the ballot no changes are made, not even for candidates that drop out of the race, which is why presidential candidates remained on the ballot during the primary.
What made the election night more stressful than normal was two election workers were unable to work.
Deputy Clerks Tiffany O’Brien and Laura Cook were candidates in the election and were legally prevented from assisting last week.
“Candidates can not do anything relating to the election at the clerk’s office,” said Huntley. “They both did a tremendous amount of work on election nights in the past.”
Overall the election counting went well and by 10 p.m. all the votes were counted and the election was finished.
The computer counting makes it easier to report the results, but legally the paper ballots are still important.
Following the election, state law requires the paper ballots be saved for two years, Huntley said.
The only thing left for Huntley when she left the courthouse March 15 was to certify the election and attend a retirement party.
“Yesterday was bittersweet, but we had a great election and everything went well,” she said during the March 16 party. “It feels wonderful to leave on a good foot. I have no doubt I am leaving it in capable hands.”
Cook received the Republican nomination for County Clerk and was appointed by the Ogle County Board to fill the vacancy left with Huntley’s retirement.
“I decided doing the election this way was the best way to leave the office,” said Huntley.
She announced her retirement plans early enough so candidates could file for the primary election and allow the voters the opportunity to select their next clerk.
Huntley reflected back on her final election.
“I was looking out the window and thinking about when I would no longer be doing this job,” she said. “I had fun doing this job and it has been a great job.”
She said every election has small glitches that require quick thinking to ensure it runs smooth.
March 15 was no exception.
“We had two of the fire station precincts locked at 5:15 a.m. when the judges arrived,” said Huntley. “ They got there and we opened on time.”
The two precincts were Marion precinct at the Stillman Valley Fire Station and the Flagg township at the Flagg Center station.
“It was the year of the fire stations,” Huntley joked. “It was nerve-wracking because I always overreact on election day.”