According to the last counts from early Wednesday morning – but still not the final, official numbers – 23,556 Bulloch County voters successfully cast ballots in Bulloch County in Tuesday’s general election, an unusually high 58.9 percent turnout for a midterm and gubernatorial election.
On the choice of a governor, 14,785 of those Bulloch County voters, or 62.8 percent, chose Bryan Kemp, the Republican, while 8,555, or 36.3 percent, voted for Stacey Abrams, the Democrat.
The status of 224 local provisional ballots remained to the determined, Bulloch County Election Supervisor Patricia Lanier Jones said Thursday morning.
“There will be some changes in the numbers, but it’s probably going to be late Friday before I have that,” she said.
Sometimes a provisional ballot is issued when a voter does not bring a required ID and agrees to bring it later. Other provisional ballots result when someone who is registered to vote in the county shows up to vote in the wrong precinct, or sometimes when someone who isn’t registered in the county at all attempts to vote. In reconciling provisional votes, Bulloch County election officials attempt to assign votes to the correct precinct for voters who are registered in the county but cannot count those from would-be voters who were not registered.
“If we can count it, we will count it,” Jones said.
The governor question
In any case, 224 votes would not be enough to change the result of any local contest or question in Bulloch County. The margins were greater. But provisional ballots statewide remain part of the lingering dispute over the race for governor, where Kemp asserted outright victory while Abrams continued to insist Thursday that Kemp’s edge in the vote count could fall below 50 percent, putting them in a runoff.
Statewide totals, shown on the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office elections website with 100 percent of precincts reporting, had Kemp with 1,973,119 votes, or 50.33 percent of the total, to Abrams’ 1,910,396 votes, or 48.73 percent. Libertarian candidate Ted Metz received 37,089 votes, or a little less than 1 percent of the total.
In Bulloch County he received 201 of those votes, also less than 1 percent of the local total. Also, 15 Bulloch voters submitted write-in votes for governor.
After asserting victory in the governor’s race, Kemp submitted his resignation Thursday as secretary of state, a role in which he had official oversight of the state elections system. The resignation removes him from the process of determining whether he has been elected governor.
Any additional military and overseas absentee ballots, which have until Friday to arrive, are another possible source of changes in the totals.
But already included in totals in the Statesboro Herald’s election story Wednesday, from tallies near midnight Tuesday, were up to 1,076 Bulloch County votes from already returned paper absentee ballots. That story stated that “more than 1,000” absentee ballots remained to be officially counted because of a technical glitch involving a memory card.
The glitch did occur and caused a delay in the counting process, but the absentee votes were shown in the candidates’ totals, just not in a breakdown of absentee, early in-person and Election Day votes.
Runoff: secretary of state
The race to be Georgia’s next secretary of state, beyond any interim after Kemp’s resignation, is headed to a Dec. 4 runoff. It pits John Barrow, the Democrat who previously represented Georgia’s 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, against Brad Raffensperger, a Republican state representative and engineering firm owner from Johns Creek.
Despite Barrow’s name recognition in the his former district, Bulloch County residents, who chose Republicans by sizeable majorities in all statewide races, gave Raffensperger 56.7 percent of their votes to 41.5 percent for Barrow and 1.8 percent for Libertarian candidate Smythe Duval. The local totals were Raffensperger 13,184 votes; Barrow 9,650 votes; Duval 411 votes.
But statewide, Raffensperger captured 1,901,485 votes, or 49.2 percent, to Barrow’s 1,877,752, or 48.6 percent, and Duval’s 86,109 votes, or 2.2 percent. So, neither Barrow nor Raffensperger netted the 50 percent-plus needed to win without a runoff.
A runoff for the Georgia Public Service Commission seat currently held by Republican Chuck Eaton also appears destined for the Nov. 4 ballot. He received 49.8 percent of votes statewide, to 47.5 percent for Democrat Lindy Miller and 2.7 percent for Libertarian Ryan Graham, unless these numbers are affected by provisional ballots or overseas and military absentee ballots.
Republican candidates won all other statewide races without runoffs.
In Bulloch County, voters chose the Republican candidates by majorities of 62.8 percent to 66.3 percent in all statewide races except for secretary of state. With Bulloch residents, the most popular state candidates were Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, with 66.3 percent of local votes, and state School Superintendent Richard Woods, with 65.6 percent of local votes. Both are Republican incumbents who faced Democratic challengers.
For the office of lieutenant governor, with no incumbent running, Republican candidate Geoff Duncan as of Tuesday night had received 1,946,325 votes statewide, or 51.7 percent of the total, while Democratic candidate Sarah Riggs Amico had received 1,815,744, or 48.26 percent. This gave Duncan a margin of victory that cannot be overcome by any pending votes.
In Bulloch County, 14,457 voters, or 64 percent of the local total, chose Duncan, while 8,096 individuals, or 36 percent, voted for Amico.
Majorities of Bulloch voters said “yes” to all five proposed state constitutional amendments and the two statewide referendums. All of these questions were also approved by voters statewide.
Provisional votes, which Jones said were not counted in the turnout totals, could push local participation to 59 percent of Bulloch County’s 39,983 registered voters. This is a different baseline for calculating turnout than the 39,825 “active” voter count used during reports on early voting. Turnout here was 44 percent and 43 percent, respectively, for outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal’s two elections in 2010 and 2014.
A little over half of the local voters in this election participated during in-person advanced voting or by absentee ballots, but this was not the first time that has happened.