HJ/EDMarch 6, 2006

Township election judge Alphonse Fiecke retires

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

A Winsted resident his entire life, Alphonse Fiecke enjoyed being a part of the Winsted Township elections.

He felt it was a great opportunity to get to meet new people moving into the area and see neighbors and old friends, too.

In 1960, when Fiecke became an election judge, he recalled, “we counted ballots by hand and it was a lot of extra work. Now, they have voting machines.”

Looking back, Fiecke remembered that an election day started very early. A normal election day would have Fiecke reporting to the town hall around 6 a.m. to set up for the election.

Voting would end promptly at 8 p.m., but some election nights would turn into the next morning before the election ballot count would equal the number of voters.

When the ballots were counted, they needed to be put into a sealed envelope and tied with a string. The string needed to be knotted and they would drip wax onto the knot.

Finally, the ballots would be delivered to Glencoe, where the wax seal would be checked to make sure the wax had not been tampered with.

Fiecke noted another difference in past elections compared to current elections and that was years ago, all of the bars and liquor stores would be closed on election night and the township would appoint a constable to oversee the election proceedings.

One election really stood out in Fiecke’s memory, but he could not remember the year or who was running for office at the time, just that it was a Winsted general election.

Someone from the Huntley and Brinkley news team in New York contacted Fiecke. Fiecke was out in the field farming at the time, but they called back later that night asking if he would be able to call them with the election results as soon they were final on election night.

Fiecke explained that they would have to wait until he came home after the election because there wasn’t a phone in the town hall.

The day before the election, the news team from New York had a phone installed in the Winsted town hall. The night of the election, Fiecke called them with the final results and they answered the phone immediately.

The next day, someone came and removed the phone from Winsted’s town hall. Fiecke still cannot believe that anyone in New York would think Winsted’s voting results were that important.

Fiecke said he first became an election judge because he was a Winsted township clerk and being an election judge was part of the job.

Today, all election judges need to be certified. Every two years they must complete a two-hour course given by their county.

Other qualifications of an election judge are: they must be eligible to vote in the state they are appointed, must be able to read, write, speak English; not be a candidate for any office in the election, and not be the spouse, parent, child, or sibling of any election judge serving in the same precinct.

The duties of an election judge are to open and close the polls, be responsible for all election materials, ensure that only qualified voters are permitted to vote, ensure that each qualified voter is permitted to vote only once, make sure all votes are cast in secret, give instructions in the method of voting when requested by a voter, give assistance to illiterate and physically disabled voters, maintain order in the polling place throughout the day, tally the vote after the polls are closed, and to certify the election results in that precinct.

Fiecke retired from dairy farming in 1991. He and his wife, Rose, still live on that same farm just south of Winsted, where they raised their five children.

Today, Fiecke keeps busy in his shop, where he works repairing things like lawn mowers. He also does welding. He likes playing cards in his spare time, too.

Fiecke turned in his resignation earlier this month as Winsted’s election judge because he wants to be able to be close to home to help Rose, who has been recovering from a stroke since July 2005.

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