Board of Elections decide against a sheriff recount

News, Politics
sheriff recount Towns County Board of Elections

HIAWASSEE, Ga – In a called meeting on Saturday, August 29, the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration deemed not to move forward with a Towns Sheriff recount.

At the time of Fetch Your News published article about the State Senate District 50 recount, the most recent confirmed information was that a sheriff recount taking place simultaneously as the senate race. FYN learned of the decision not to recall the sheriff race on Monday.

The Board of Elections decided not to move forward with the request to recall the sheriff election based on Georgia law. In O.C.G.A. 21-2-495, it states that the candidate request for a recount must be issued within two days of election certification. Osborn made his request two days prior to Towns certifying its results. Since the request was made before Towns certified the election, the letter was considered void by Georgia law.

The second reason behind denying the recount is that the board of elections couldn’t determine any error in the election process. Also, in O.C.G.A. 21-2-495, it states that if “a discrepancy in the returns recorded for any voting machine or machines or that an error, although not apparent on the face of the returns, exists, the superintendent shall, either of his or her motion or upon the sworn petition of three electors of any precinct, order a recanvass of the votes shown on that particular machine or machines.” The board of elections couldn’t find any argument that would constitute a recount or recanvasing of the vote.

The voter challenges issued in the sheriff’s race are still being investigated, however.

As for the recount of the State Senate District 50, Bo Hatchett picked up two votes with the final tally being in favor of Stacy Hall 1,878 to Hatchett’s 1,684.

Hatchett’s two new votes came from adjudicated ballots, where the machine misread those votes the first time around. Adjudicated ballots are a result of ballots being impaired or unreadable in someway.

Towns Board of Elections to recount sheriff’s race

News, Politics
sheriff recount Towns County Board of Elections

HIAWASSEE, Ga – After the Osborn campaign filed a petition stating cause and the Board of Elections consulted with the county attorney, Towns County will hold a recount of the sheriff’s race.

On August 12, sheriff candidate Daren “Bear” Osborn issued his initial request for a recount. The same day, the Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) opened an investigation into Towns County for possible election interference. However, the SOS didn’t specify for what race or expand upon the investigation. The Board of Elections Chairman Janet Oliva was unaware of the SOS investigation. No one from the state has contacted Towns County about election interference as of August 18.

Case sheet from the Secretary of State’s office.

The county attorney advised that the Board of Elections err on the side of caution and voter concern, so they opted to honor the request for the recount.

In Osborn’s first letter, he called attention to the “small marginal difference of 40 votes a recount could show error in counting, including absentee ballots.”

The certified county results brought the margin down to 38 votes between the candidates with Kenneth “Ode” Henderson receiving 1,884 and Osborn garnering 1,846. 

The letter cited “short staffing” during the initial processing of absentee ballots and asked for a review of all absentee ballots.

Osborn requested that all ballots be reviewed without interference from either candidates’ supporters, adding that Henderson’s supporters visited the Elections office daily. This behavior potentially resulted in worker duress. Additionally, he asked that observers not be allowed within the recount area.

However, the margin didn’t meet the requirements for an automatic recount, according to the Board of Elections Chairman Janet Oliva. The recount falls under GA code § 21-2-495 (c). A candidate must request a recount in writing within two days of the election certification. If the recount determines that the original is incorrect, “the returns and all papers prepared by the superintendent, the superintendents, or the Secretary of State shall be corrected accordingly, and the results recertified.”

Since Towns County is in the middle of two recounts, both will take place on the same day. 

“We’re going to do them all in a day, the same time because that’s much more effective, so we’ll do our recall in conjunction with the Stacy Hall and Bo Hatchett recall because it’s a matter of setting the machines,” explained Oliva.

Daren Bear Osborn

Osborn has requested a recount in the sheriff election.

They must physically recount all paper ballots, which will take several hours. The state certification won’t occur until after Friday. Therefore, the recall process won’t take place for at least another week.

 The August 11 runoff resulted in 47 adjudicated ballots. These ballots were either torn or marked in a manner that the machines won’t read. As a result, the votes had to be transferred over to a clean ballot by two judges, one Republican and one Democrat. They read the “spoiled” ballot and determine how that person intended to vote. Once determined, the machine processes the clean ballot. The smallest tear can result in adjudication because of the machine’s sensitivity.

As for provisional ballots, they counted ten and rejected six.

The Osborn campaign has turned in 28 separate vote challenges with names of voters, who potentially do not live in Towns County or voters up for being purged from the rolls. 

The upcoming recount doesn’t mean that the election office is accepting or validating any of the challenges made by the campaign. The Board of Elections is carrying out Georgia law, which grants candidates the capability to request a recount.

Runoff details emerge; Anderson qualified for tax commissioner

Election, News

TOWNS COUNTY, Ga – Board of Elections announced that the August 11 runoff elections will take place in the same polling location as the General Primary.

After speaking with the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office, Board of Elections Chairman Janet Olivia and Office Supervisor Rachel Edwards stated that the runoff election must “be consistent” with the primary. In other words, the decision to only open one polling station will still be in effect for the runoff.

COVID-19 forced the Board of Elections to close four of the five polling stations in Towns County. The decision took into account the safety of residents and poll workers as well as liability concerns.

“We had trained 30 [poll workers], but when we get got a reply back, we had less than 12 that were interested in working,” Olivia explained. “Also, the individuals in control of the polling places were concerned about the issue of using the polling place locations because of the liability and responsibility.”

If the government owns the polling location, then it takes on the responsibility of sanitizing the area to combat the spread of COVID-19. EMS Director Brandon Walls and his team assisted in ensuring the cleanliness of the Board of Elections and Civic Center building.

Rachel Edwards (Left) and Janet Olivia (Right).

However, other polling locations, such as the lodge and church, private citizens would be responsible for cleaning and separating large crowds of people.

The elections and civic center building was only government facility available for the General Primary and just enough poll workers to staff it.

4,754 Towns residents voted during the June 9 General Primary with 2,732 absentee votes, and 1,166 early votes. Around 10,500 people are registered to vote in Towns County.

Early voting for the runoff will begin on July 20. Absentee ballots for the runoff must be requested. The Secretary of State won’t mass mail absentee applications for the August 11 election.

Races appearing on the August 11 runoff will be Towns County Sheriff between Kenneth “Ode” Henderson (R) and Daren “Bear” Osborn (R), State Senator District 50 between Stacy Hall (R) and Bo Hatchett (R), Congressional Ninth District on the Republican Ticket Matt Gurtler and Andrew Clyde, and Ninth District on the Democrat Ticket Devin Pandy and Brooke Siskin.

Due to J.C. Berrong’s untimely passing, the Towns County Republican Party can run another candidate in his place and one individual has qualified. Michael Anderson of Scataway will appear on the ballot for Tax Commissioner in November. Bruce Rogers (D-I) will also be on the ballot.

The Board of Elections applied for several grants to reimburse the expenses associated with the new voting machines as well.

Bradshaw commended the work the election staff performs to deliver accurate results.

“These ladies do a great job. They put in a tremendous amount of hours down there and I’m very thankful to have them. As commissioner, I don’t know what I would do without them. They are very dedicated and do a good job, added Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw.

Early voting adjusts to social distancing guidelines

Election, News
early voting

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County voters started casting their ballots on May 18 when early voting opened and noticed all the precautions in place to keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw stressed the importance of early voting, “I want to brag on our elections board. They’ve done a great job preparing for social separation…I do want you to get out and vote and early vote if possible that way on June the 9, maybe it won’t be too crowded.”

The Towns County Board of Elections and Registration instated a number of safety measures, including poll workers wearing masks and gloves, plexiglass separation, and limiting the number of people allowed in the lobby.

Also, they also spaced voting booths further apart to follow social distancing guidelines. Consequently, the extra space added additional voting privacy, which has been a concern in metro counties. Some voters claimed that the new system made it too easy for others to see who they voted for. 

Poll workers are wearing masks and gloves.

Early voting will last until June 5 with Saturday voting on May 30. The elections building opens at 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. until the cut-off date.

The Board of Elections installed an absentee ballot box outside the building for those choosing to go that route. Earlier in the year, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger mass-mailed absentee applications to Georgians before moving the election date to June 9.

Almost 1.5 million Georgians have submitted a request for absentee ballots for the upcoming election with over 1 million absentee ballots already sent out to Georgia voters. The states already received 400,000 absentee ballots. 

Those who first applied for an absentee ballot and then decided to vote in-person must sign an affidavit to cancel their absentee ballot.

The Board of Elections and Registration Building and adjacent civic center will also serve as the central polling location in the county on June 9. All other polling locations will be closed because of COVID-19.

According to the Towns County GOP, “Due to a state of emergency and unavoidable circumstances that exist as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the office of the Towns County Board of Elections and the adjacent civic center shall serve as the single polling place for the June 09, 2020, primary and special election. This space is designated as it meets all requirements under State Election Board (SEB) rules and state law and requirements and accommodations for disabled electors; can be staffed by the current number of poll workers available; and can also be configured to meet the safety and social distancing protocols established for this election (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-265(a)(c)(d)(f)).”

Several races local races will be decided in the June 9 primary.

Towns County Sheriff

Jim Couch (R)

Linda Curtis (R)

Kenneth Henderson (R)

Lisa Joseph (R)

Darren Osborn (R)

Towns County Coroner

Tamela Cooper (R)

Harold Copeland (R)

Board of Education, Post 5

Steven Green (Non-partisan)

Caroleen Woods (Non-partisan)

State races on the ballot are

Georgia House of Representatives, District 8 

Stan Gunter (R)

Steve Townsend (R)

Dale Cooper (D)

Georgia Senate, District 50

Andy Garrison (R)

Dan Gasaway (R)

Stacy Hall (R)

Bo Hatchett (R)

Tricia Hise (R)

Lee Moore (R)

Dee Daley (D)

Voters can expect to see more local races on the ballot, but these candidates face no competition.

SPLOST will also be up for renewal, which will keep the taxes at 7 percent. The money will be used to renovate the courthouse.

The Freeport Tax is also on the ballot. It’s a tax exemption for manufacturers of raw materials in the area. Bradshaw hopes it will create jobs in Towns County.

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