All you new voters need to know Texas wasn’t always red.

In fact, there was a time, not too long ago, when states weren’t colored according to their political proclivities.

I don’t remember when the red and blue started, but I figure it must’ve been a contribution from the TV news people. They’re forever making slogans and popping up letters that stand for words. The feds also have something to do with that.

In the not too distant past, you couldn’t get elected to anything unless you were a Democrat, never mind the color.

Once one of my jobs was to go to the old courthouse on election night and gather the numbers for the paper, along with talking to the winners and losers and getting quotes.

It was pretty chaotic, and I would’ve liked to wish it on some other unlucky reporter. But there I was.

The ballots were on paper, delivered in sealed up metal boxes by all the chief judges of all the precincts in the county. There were always precincts you would count on to be late and hold up all the works.

A long table lined with women with sharp pencils recorded the votes and added the totals.

Those were then passed, believe it or not, to the radio reporters, who pasted the ongoing tallies up on the wall in the county clerk’s office.

That office, and all its hullabaloo, was dedicated to the Democrats.

The few Republicans that existed during those years were headquartered up on the mezzanine of the building. The Republicans had to climb the stairs.

I have no idea how those Republicans handled their totals. I know they were, at that time, pretty inconsequential.

The tide began to turn in 1979, when Bill Clements ran and won as Governor of Texas. He was a Republican.

Among the things he did that were different was he made a whistle stop campaign, traveling through the middle of Texas on a train with his entourage and the press, in tow.

He talked to crowds at each stop from the back car of the train.

I got to be one of those “press” and that was really fun. A club car with eats and drinks. The whole nine yards.

He served a term, then got beat by Mark White in the next election. Then in 1987, Clements won again. Democrat Ann Richards jumped into the next election and won.

Then came George W. Bush, and that was the end of the Democrats ‘til now.

So, the Republicans moved to the bottom floor and the whole election later moved to the new courthouse. And lots of former Democrats became instant Republicans.

Best of all, the paper ballots morphed into electronic devices, and, I assume, the whole election night process has become much faster.

That’s one thing for which we can thank the world wide web. Go vote.

Cathy Gillentine is a Daily News columnist. She may be reached at cathy.gillentine@comcast.net.

(2) comments

Carlos Ponce

The first time I voted was in the 1972 Presidential election. There was a huge voting machine we entered to vote. You walked into it and pulled the handle which closed the curtain behind you. Each race had their candidates listed with a lever next to each name. You voted by moving each lever. Or you could move a "party" lever which moved all levers for candidates of that particular political party for you. Moving the master handle opened the curtains and locked in your vote, resetting the machine for the next voter. At the end of the day, vote tallies from the back of the machine were reported to county officials. We later used the same type of machines for our student council elections. As a Student Council vice-president I did not vote but monitored the election in the Old Gym.
In 1972 as a senior in high school I did a report for Speech class on George McGovern. After the research I decided I could not vote for him. My government teacher, Mr. Berry Lee McDavid ( a card carrying member of the ACLU) tried to hide his disappointment when I told him I had voted for Richard Nixon. Looking back at that vote, despite how his second term turned out, Richard Nixon was the better candidate. I do not regret that vote.
The media-wide use of red state-Republican / blue state Democrat designation came in 2000. Previously, each media outlet used their own designation.
Time Magazine - 1976 Republican White, Democrat Blue
ABC News -1976 Republican Yellow, Democrat Blue
Time Magazine - 1980 Republican Blue, Democrat White
NBC News- 1980 Republican Blue, Democrat Red
CBS News - 1980 Republican Blue, Democrat Red
CBS News -1984 Republican Red, Democrat Blue
ABC News -1984 Republican Red, Democrat Blue

Steve Fouga

1972 was also my first time to vote. I voted as you did, and still feel the same about my vote as you do. Sometimes there just isn't a stellar candidate, or even a good one. And we can't know everything we would wish to know, ahead of time. We do our best, and pray for good results.

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