Voters Tuesday, along with those who have already voted during early voting the past three weeks, will decide who will be the next Ogeechee Circuit Superior Court judge, the next Bulloch County Probate Court judge, and the next county commissioner in Seat 2A.
All 16 Bulloch County polling places will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
When early voting closed at 5 p.m. Friday, 1,947 Bulloch County residents had cast in-person ballots, and 251 mailed absentee ballots had been returned. So 2,198 people had participated, or 7.23 percent of the county's 30,399 active registered voters, reported Bulloch County Election Supervisor Patricia Lanier Jones.
This result and a flurry of voters Friday prompted Jones to revise her prediction of overall turnout for this runoff upward from the 10 percent she originally forecast to 15 percent.
“For us to get our 15 percent, we have to have 4,560 voters,” Jones said. “We’ve already voted 2,198.”
By Jones’ count, 89 voters filed through the early voting area outside her office within two hours and 10 minutes Friday afternoon, prior to another rush before the 5 p.m. closing time.
Still, participation to this point has been less than that before the May 24 primary, when 3,258 Bulloch voters, or 10.74 percent, voted early or absentee. But in May there were 16 days of early voting, including a Saturday, compared to 14 days and no Saturday voting for the runoff.
Superior Court race
The top race on Tuesday's ballot, in terms of the area involved and the job’s prestige, is the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Superior Court judge's position being vacated at year-end by retiring Judge John R. "Robbie" Turner. He is one of three Superior Court judges in the circuit.
After emerging as the leaders May 24 when there were three candidates on the ballot, runoff candidates Martha Hall and Michael Muldrew have continued a hard-fought contest with advertising, in-person campaigning by volunteers and themselves, and attendance at public gatherings.
Hall, now an attorney in private practice as a partner with the Hall Group P.C., was previously an assistant district attorney for six and half years and, in a 21-year career, has been a state court solicitor in Screven County and a municipal court judge in Oliver and Newington. Muldrew, now chief assistant district attorney, has been an assistant district attorney in the Ogeechee Circuit for 20 years of a 25-year legal career.
The judicial circuit includes Effingham, Jenkins and Screven counties, as well as Bulloch. But Bulloch, the circuit's largest county, alone has other races in the runoff.
Election officials in the other counties have not been optimistic about turnout. As of 2:45 p.m. Friday, about 1.3 percent of voters in Effingham County, the second-largest in population, had voted early or absentee. This included 319 in-person votes and 66 returned absentee ballots, while Effingham has roughly 27,800 active registered voters, said Effingham County Election Supervisor Olivia Morgan.
With Tuesday’s voting still to go, she revised her earlier prediction of about 2 percent turnout in the runoff.
“It will be more than 2 percent, I believe, but not by much,” Morgan said.
In Bulloch County, two other contests are helping draw voters to the polls, but only the Probate Court judge race is open to all voters in the county. Like the Superior Court judgeship, probate judge is a nonpartisan office.
After emerging as the leaders among five candidates in the May 24 election, Charles P. “Charlie” Aaron and Lorna G. DeLoach are vying to succeed retiring Probate Judge Lee DeLoach, who will leave office at year-end after a 30-year career.
Aaron is an attorney with Edenfield, Cox, Bruce and Classens. Lorna DeLoach, a paralegal and the office manager at Stafford Law Group, is not related to Lee DeLoach, but her husband is his distant cousin.
The runoff between Curt Deal and Jimmy Hayes for Bulloch County Board of Commissioners Seat 2A appears only on Republican Party ballots for District 2, which covers about half the county. The seat is being vacated at year-end by incumbent Commissioner Carolyn Ethridge, who did not seek re-election.
Hayes, an organic farmer, touts his previous experience as a road builder. Deal, a former funeral director who now works for a funeral home supply company, says he has no agenda except to see the county grow and prosper.
District 2 residents who voted the Democratic Party ballot in the May 24 primary are not eligible to vote in the runoff between Deal and Hayes, but will receive the nonpartisan ballot and can vote in the judge races.
“The only ones that can vote Republican are those in County Commission District 2 that voted Republican in May or that did not vote in May or voted nonpartisan in May,” Jones explained in a previous interview.
District 1 voters will automatically receive a nonpartisan ballot.
All voters need to bring a Georgia driver’s license or other valid, government-issued photo identification with them to the polls. But Jones reminds voters, candidates and supporters that state law prohibits campaigning, which she said includes displaying campaign signs, buttons, shirts and hats, within 150 feet of a polling place.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.