Election cycles tales of votes past
by Juanita Hughes
Columnist
October 31, 2012 12:16 AM | 719 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Juanita Hughes
Juanita Hughes
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The MOTH’s daily early-morning walk often takes him up the sidewalk north of downtown Woodstock to the library, even on a Sunday.

Imagine his surprise on the Sunday just past to find a few folks waiting there for the polls to open. Anything I say about that in this space would be a waste of space and newspaper ink.

You’re welcome to make your own comment.

Reminiscing about elections from our past is a lot more fun, and much less stressful.

With all the talk of the depot’s 100th birthday, the structure’s connection with the electoral process comes to mind. For many years the depot served as the only voting precinct in town, being the location of City Hall from the early ‘60s until it moved to the building vacated by the telephone company on Church Street where it continued to serve as the main voting precinct.

It was during the 1976 national election that it became obvious that something should be done about the situation. At 7 p.m. that evening when the polls officially closed, the line of citizens waiting to vote stretched southward along the railroad tracks to the funeral home.

It was a rather chilly evening, and folks built fires in trash cans up and down the line.

Riley Medley had a restaurant across the street, and he brought hot coffee over to voters who waited patiently for the opportunity to cast ballots.

As a poll worker, I voted just after midnight.

City elections at that time were held the first Tuesday in December, with elected officials taking office on Jan. 1. Those elections were held in the little office south of the main part of the depot.

We used paper ballots which would be counted later by hand. After counting the third time with identical results each time, a retail liquor sales referendum in 1978 was defeated as a tie vote, 163 to 163, was recorded.

They were told by state officials that this was a first in Georgia.

Voting machines were used for primary and general elections in Woodstock for the first time in 1970.

Woodstock was blessed to have its own newspaper during the 1960s and later, and when there was an election in progress, the pages were filled with tidbits of info that are fodder for a few laughs today.

Local businessman and reporter Howell Stenger, in the Dec. 9, 1970, issue of The Woodstock Neighbor, gave this description of a segment of the last meeting of the year of the mayor and council.

“Results of the December election were given by city clerk Barbara Crowe: Of 378 registered voters there were 103 ballots cast. C.J. Bowles received 95 votes for mayor and was re-elected. Joe Dodson, who was not on the ballot, received three write-in votes for mayor. James N. Barnes received 99 votes for councilman and was re-elected. Douglas Phillips received 18 votes for councilman.”

On Dec. 5, 1962, this report was given. “Woodstock citizens went to polls Tuesday with only one decision confronting them, which two of three candidates they would vote into the pair of vacant city council seats. They already were assured that W. B. Drinkard would be their mayor for his third straight one-year term. The chief executive of the city responded to popular demand and qualified for office at the last moment when it became apparent that no one was going to try to fill his figuratively big shoes. It is a tribute to him and the large part he has had in the growth and progress of Woodstock that the citizens would consider no one else for the office at this time.”

Wow! I guess we took Bill for granted.

An earlier mayor, Arthur Lee Poor, chose not to run for re-election in 1956, but was elected anyway on a write-in ballot in spite of having three opponents.

Some of the political ads from those years tell their own story.

Zach Cravey had a few fans, literally. In his bid for election to the office of state treasurer, he distributed fold-out hand fans. One featured two little boys fishing, their trusted collie dog lying nearby. How could he lose!

Like all else, elections just are not what they used to be.

Campaigns used to last for two weeks, now they last for two years. Instead of voting one day and getting it over with, we vote every day (except Sunday!) for two weeks.

But one thing never changes.

The headlines will make for fodder for tomorrow’s laughs. And folks who can’t figure out when or where to vote will continue to insist they know how.

Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.

Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.
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