SALEM — It was an amazing election night, and not just because of all the upsets.
Election central shifted from City Hall to Rockafellas.
Instead of waiting for burly police officers to lug ballot boxes to City Hall, where clerks would chalk the results on a blackboard — a tradition from yesteryear that can take 90 minutes or more — a group of young Salem residents with laptops and iPads posted results almost instantaneously on a screen at Rockafellas, the downtown restaurant.
The credit largely goes to the Salem First Coalition, a group that formed after the 300-ballot debacle last winter at the City Council. Spearheaded by Chris Sicuranza and others, the group wanted to make sure an embarrassing incident like that wouldn’t happen again and dedicated itself to improving communication and building bridges.
In this election, Salem First set up a Web page where each candidate had a profile page.
On Election Day, the group had a representative at each polling place who tweeted or texted a photo of the final ballot box receipt from each precinct. The results went to Sicuranza or Dominick Pangallo, chief aide to Mayor Kim Driscoll, who were camped on a big couch in a corner at Rockafellas with their laptops and iPads. Those results were updated to a large screen at the restaurant, next to photos of the candidates. The word “winner” flashed on the screen, along with voting results.
Through the night, candidates and supporters filled Rockafellas to watch the results and listen to music by Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket, a band that included Andy Gerard, husband of Beth Gerard, the winner of the Ward 6 council race.
There were other election night parties at the Black Lobster, the Witch’s Brew, Bertini’s, Adriatic and Howling Wolf, but the big shindig was at Rockafellas, election headquarters for 2013.