I worked as an “exit poller” at Jones Middle School in Upper Arlington. This is an old middle school in the heart of the Columbus suburb. The “hall of fame” in the School’s entrance includes alumni such as Jack Nicklaus (the golfing great) and Sam Devine, a conservative Central Ohio Republican congressman who held the seat for most of his adult life.

Exit polling asks voters how they voted as they “exit” the poll and has the most accurate results. Our poll surveyed the results of the Presidential Election and the 15th Ohio Congressional District. Nothing exceptional was noted on the results of Obama (the Arlington precincts, as could be expected, had a majority for McCain). What was of possible interest were the results in the Congressional race. At Jones Middle School Steve Stivers, the Republican, beat Mary Jo Kilroy by a much greater percentage than McCain defeated Obama. This may not be as remarkable as it seems at first. It appears Jones Middle School is Stivers “home precinct” – Stivers was “shooting the breeze” with people coming in and out of the polls a hundred or so feet further out from the school than us as the evening passed. (I’m pretty sure this precinct was chosen deliberately by the Ph.D. Statistician in charge of this project for this reason).

What is interesting is that the overall race between Stivers and Kilroy is still so tight that it has not been decided yet and may very well result in a recount. To observers of the Columbus political scene this is surprising because Stivers is not nearly well known as Kilroy and was the “third choice” by the local Republicans to run against Kilroy (the Republican incumbent Debra Pryce is resigning and did not run). The race in 2006 was also very close, had a recount, and finally resulted in a victory for Pryce – but it was very well publicized and Kilroy became very well known as a result.

Given this plus the magnitude of Obama’s victory it defies logic that Stivers could be so close given his relative obscurity along with the “coat tail effect” of the Obama landslide. It is too early yet to be seen whether there is any factual evidence of wrongdoing in this race. However, the exit polling results by the group I did the polling for could turn out to be important evidence if anything improper was done in this election count.

Immediately after the election my feeling was that the exit polling may not have accomplished much due to the Obama landslide. But seeing the congressional results I realize exit polling and other election monitoring efforts have a much broader role. Election distortion and theft can occur at many levels. It is important to look at all levels of election honesty and make continuing efforts to insure that elections for all races are counted accurately.

My hope is that the Obama campaign and its achievement of generating higher interest in politics and public affairs from a much greater majority of Americans than was common in the recent past will filter down to a more local level.