There are few places more exciting than the newsroom on election night. But there was even more buzz in the 1960s when the staff of News and Observer had the added task of tabulating votes for the State Board of Elections. David Cooper wrote about it leading up to the May 28, 1960 primary.
Estimates on the number of votes which will be cast in today's primary election range from half a million to 700,000. After they're in, somebody will have to count 'em.
This business of adding up the votes from Manteo to Murphy -- from small, handmade ballot boxes to expensive, modern voting machines -- is no easy task.
The tabulating job will require the services of close to 10,000 people, says Raymond Maxwell, secretary of the state Board of Elections. At the hub of the counting process will be staff members at The News and Observer and a 23-man experienced band of counters recruited from offices around Capitol Hill who will make the unofficial tallies.
Reports will be coming in from 2,094 precincts across the State. Three officials will preside over the voting process at each precinct. Clerks and extra helpers will run up the total election work force.
And you may think your vote is free, but actually the tab for the election will run somewhere between $350,000 and $400,000, Maxwell said.
A statewide bond election last October cost $336,718.10. Counties will bear the main cost of this election, Maxwell says.
There are 521 voting machines in the State (70 in Wake County). The count from precincts having the machines will be in first. Herbert O'Keef, chairman of the Wake Board of Elections, figures the totals will be in about an hour after the 6:30 p.m. ballot-box closing.
Once the polls are closed, the precinct - by - precinct tabulations will start trickling into The News and Observer.
L.D. (Dinty) Moore of the State Budget Bureau heads the tabulating team which will work long into the night adding up the results from the State's 100 counties. Moore has been figuring election results at The N&O since 1936.
He got a good initiation into the painstaking work. Hoey and McDonald fought it out for governor in the second primary that year and "By golly, we didn't get through until daylight and then we went across the street and ate breakfast," Moore recalls.
His team, composed of State government employees skilled in the handling of an adding machine, is geared to give an almost instant up-to-the-minute tally of the results.
The Associated Press has a host of teletype machines and workers to spread the vote count across the State after figures are initially phoned in to the staff of The News and Observer.
"We're the court of last resort," Moore says. "When they get to us, we just add 'em up."
"It gets rather cumbersome about 12 o'clock when the figures are coming in so fast."
Moore took over as chief of the tabulating team in 1948. "I enjoy it," he says with an election-night gleam in his eye. "All the boys do."
Sam Ragan, executive editor of The News and Observer, recalls election nights when getting the vote from a particular precinct was not only important but difficult.
During one very close race, an correspondent down East was dispatched in a rowboat to get the tally from an isolated area.
"Another night we sent on of our reporters out in a car to get the precinct totals," Ragan said. "The car got stuck on a back road and he had to walk two miles to get the results."
Ragan said the first precinct and the first county to report their totals are given cash prizes.
Seventy people in all will be working at The News and Observer into the night in connection with the election, he said.
The tallies will start rolling into the State Board of Election office next Wednesday or Thursday and the board will make the official count on June 7.
"Then we'll have less than three weeks to get ready for the second primary," Raymond Maxwell said. Ballots must be printed again and sent out in readiness for the June 25 vote. -- The News & Observer 5/28/1960