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Some Bulloch precincts saw more voters Tuesday than Nov. 8
Local turnout 47%; party chairs share observations
After casting his ballot in the U.S. Senate runoff election, Kenneth Howard gets a smile and a sticker from poll worker Susan Radovich as voters take to the polls in the race between incumbent Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
After casting his ballot in the U.S. Senate runoff election, Kenneth Howard gets a smile and a sticker from poll worker Susan Radovich as voters take to the polls in the race between incumbent Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker on Tuesday, Dec. 6. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

In several of Bulloch County’s election precincts, more voters cast ballots Tuesday, the final day of the runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, than had voted Nov. 8, the final day of the general election.

Total local turnout in the election concluded Tuesday was 47.2% of Bulloch County’s now 45,160 registered voters, higher than in many past runoffs but still less than the 52.6% who participated in the general election.

But of the 21,329 Bulloch County voters who cast ballots in the runoff, 11,765, or more than 55%, did so at the 16 precinct polls on Tuesday. Of the rest, 8,489 had cast ballots in-person during the five days of early voting last week, and 1,075 had returned absentee ballots by 7 p.m. Tuesday, the deadline for all but military and overseas voters.

In Bulloch, Walker received 13,548 votes to Warnock's 7,760, so 63.6% of local voters preferred the Republican. But statewide, Warnock won with 51.4% percent of the votes to Walker’s 48.6%, securing the Democratic Party a 51-49 majority of seats in the U.S. Senate. The local numbers are “unofficial and incomplete” Election Night totals; the state percentages are from the Secretary of State’s Office website Wednesday afternoon.

 

Busy at Emit

At the Emit Precinct on Harville Road due south of Statesboro, 981 people showed up on Tuesday, Dec. 6, and voted in the runoff, up from exactly 900 who voted there on Nov. 8, reported poll manager Ben Wicker and assistant poll manager Noel Holley.

As they described it, any problems Tuesday at Emit’s little voting house were minor.

“We had a card-reader issue, and we just needed more supplies because we had so many people coming out,” Wicker said. “But everything went awesome.”

“We have a great team that works together super well, so yeah, and our voters were incredible,” Holley said. “They were patient when we had some slow-goes. They came out to do their civic duty, and they were proud to do it.”

The longest any individual had to wait was probably three or four minutes, Wicker added.

 

Friendly Nevils

Jeff Odegaard, assistant poll manager at the Nevils Precinct, where his wife Janet is poll manager, reported a similarly active day.

“We were busier today than we were at the regular election,” he said. “We had 506 today, and we had 483 at the regular election. So we were surprised; at least I was personally.”

One of the new poll workers recruited and trained since the May primary when workers and managers were in short supply, Odegaard has served only during the Nov. 8 and Dec. 6 elections.

The experience Tuesday at Nevils was “what you think an election should be like in a democracy,” he said. “Friends and neighbors, and people come in with hugs and handshakes and ‘Haven’t seen you for a while’ and ‘How’s your grandbaby?’ So I enjoyed the heck out of it.”

With the runoff’s much shorter ballot and, as expected, faster flow of voters, only about 100 poll workers were assigned to staff the precincts, down from about 150 workers at the general election, said Bulloch County Election Supervisor Shontay Jones.

 

Party chairs

“One of the things that I was pleased about, given the state of our county being majority Republican, is that we did increase the percentage of voters voting for Senator Warnock by 1.2%, and those small wins across the state are what helped carry him to victory, besides the big Democratic counties,” Len Fatica, Bulloch County Democratic Committee chair, said Wednesday.

Based on the official and complete Nov. 8 results and the still unofficial and incomplete Dec. 6 results, Warnock gained 1.5% in his share of the county’s votes, while Walker picked up 0.3%, so 1.2% was the difference in their gains.

The candidate left behind at the Nov. 8 general election, Libertarian Chase Walker, had captured almost 1.8% of Bulloch’s votes at that time. The Nov. 8 results had Walker with 63.3% and Warnock with 34.9% in Bulloch.

With the turnout a little lower, both Walker and Warnock actually received fewer local votes in the runoff than in the general election.

Bulloch’s turnout in the Jan. 5, 2021 Senate runoff in which Warnock was elected over Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff was elected over Republican David Perdue – but with large local majorities going to the Republicans – was a historically high 56.5%. But with one Senate race this time, the 47.2% turnout remained higher than in many past runoffs.

Reid Derr, Bulloch County Republican Party chair, had knocked on many doors during campaigning and found “a lot not only of early voting but also of tremendous awareness of the runoff” and its national importance, he said. He observed that voters received so many campaign mailers, texts and emails that many “felt bombarded” but that this also encouraged people to participate.

He had visited 10 of the 16 precincts Tuesday and said people at the polls had also noted “a high level of interest.”

“I am sorry for both sides in that I think the election turned largely on personality and individuals’ relative disabilities as opposed to issues,” Derr said Wednesday. “I’m an issues person and I think the difference in issues was stark.”

A few votes from provisional ballots could still be added to the county totals until Friday – such as for people who voted in the right county but the wrong precinct or did not have their ID on them – and any military or overseas U.S. citizen ballots returned by Friday must be counted.

 

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