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I am a results-oriented person.

When I'm given a job, my thoughts go immediately to what it will take to get the job done. For me, talking for hours and coming to no conclusion is the very definition of Hell.

That's caused me plenty of trouble over the years. I tend to hurry people along, push them to say "we'll do it this way," or "our stand will be this and this." That can leave people feeling they didn't get their full say, or resentful that all options aren't really considered.

I'll even admit to making a mistake or two (or three) as a result of this approach. But I have to say, it appears to be a pretty basic part of my makeup.

So you can imagine how I feel about two years of politicking, only to end Election Day with issues still unresolved.

I'm writing this before the polls close Tuesday, so I hasten to point out I'm making some assumptions here. The entire premise of this column might be a moot point — we might clearly know who will serve as President for the next four years come Wednesday morning. We might have a certainty about who will sit in City Council seats or how voters want to change state law through the ballot initiatives.

But I don't think we will.

Ironically, that lack of clarity is the result of a really good thing — a record turnout thanks to providing multiple ways to vote. People have fewer excuses when they can fill out a ballot and turn it in 10 days before an election, or mail it in even earlier, or drop completed ballots in special boxes, or go in person to vote early or on election day at cool places like Dodgers Stadium, or, well, you get the picture.

That's all great. But it also offers big challenges when it comes to counting those votes, and making sure they are legit. Add a little California law that says ballots are valid if postmarked on Election Day (Nov. 3), even if they don't get to the county clerk until Friday.

Did you know that county clerks have 30 days after Election Day to certify election results? As we in Long Beach saw in March regarding the sales tax proposition, that means the results can change up to that last day. It ain't over until it's over, as the saying goes.

Which doesn't do a whole lot for my blood pressure.

Tuesday night, I found myself longing for the "good old days," when we griped about not getting final results until midnight or 1 a.m. The excuses back then were the time it took to get ballot boxes back from far-flung places in Los Angeles County like Lancaster, or Malibu.

And this circles back to my results-oriented (okay, impatient) personality. I want to know who won. Now.

But making that decision too quickly can result in seriously embarrassing mistakes. That's especially true in the news industry. Here's a little secret — we news types still highly value being the first to report things, including election results. It might not be quite as strong as it was in 1948 — the year of that great, and wrong, "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline — but the desire is still there.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed again this year when it came to saying who won what election. It is actually more important to be right than it is to be first. And if it takes a day or three to get the right, and complete, results, so be it.

This contentious election is a reflection of our currently contentious, divided society. But it should provide some comfort that our bedrock democratic beliefs — one person gets one vote, and they all count the same — continues to be played out in our processes and procedures.

We believe in the power of the vote. But that power only works when every vote counts.

And if that takes time, we take the time. It's what Americans do. 

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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