Pay close attention before responding to any absentee ballot mailers

Election, News
absentee ballots mailers

HIAWASSEE, Ga – A group not associated with the Towns County Board of Elections, is actively mailing flyers and calling local voters regarding their absentee ballots’ status.

According to the mailer, these citizens have sent back their absentee ballots, but the state hasn’t yet received it. However, once voters call the board of elections, the county has accepted the absentee ballot in question.

These third-party flyers and callers don’t represent the Towns County Board of Elections or Secretary of State’s office. Citizens who find these mailers in their inbox can ignore it.

Review the Towns County Sample Ballot. 

Board of Elections Chairman Janet Oliva asked the people of Towns County “not to panic” because the flyers “aren’t from us.” They don’t make calls or send out mailers regarding voting issues. Anytime an official problem arises with an absentee ballot, an election official will verify who they are and issue a signed letter on their letterhead. It will also include a call back number for people to reach them.

If anyone has a question about their absentee ballot, they can contact the board of elections or visit the My Georgia Voter page.

Other counties in Georgia and other states, such as Wisconsin, are seeing similar flyers sent to absentee voters. 

County citizens not permitted to vote on water fluoridation

Hiawassee fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – According to the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration, Towns County voters will not have a say on the May ballot as to whether fluoride will be added to the City of Hiawassee’s water supply. Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia delivered the news to FYN on Tuesday, March 3, stating that a municipality is not authorized to call for a ballot referendum that includes input from county voters.

Although many county residents and businesses receive water through the City of Hiawassee, according to Olivia – who stated that the elections office consulted with Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker on the matter – the fluoridation decision will be determined solely by voters residing within Hiawassee city limits.

Click to read: Citizens to decide water fluoridation on May ballot

FYN contacted the City of Hiawassee and Towns County government for clarification on the matter, as both entities were seemingly under the impression that both city and county citizens would vote on the controversial topic of fluoridation.

FYN is awaiting additional information from Hiawassee City Attorney Thomas Mitchell and Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker at this time.

On March 4, FYN contacted the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) who recommended last year that both city and county citizens vote on the issue. “The City of Hiawassee and Towns County, under the 2018 Wholesale Water Agreement provided to EPD, each have a right to the finished water produced by the Hiawassee Water System (HWS); HWS gets about 55 percent and the Towns County Water and Sewer Authority (TCWSA) about 45 percent,” Kevin Chambers, EPD Director of Communications, said. “Based on that agreement, EPD advised that the TCWSA and HWS are considered one system for purposes of O.C.G.A. 12-5-175 and that all water system users should be allowed to petition for and vote in any referendum.”

Continue to follow FYN for updates on the May 19 fluoride referendum.

Plunkett appointed to Towns County Board of Elections

David Plunkett

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – David Plunkett was appointed to the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration last week by Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, replacing former board member Jim Powell.

“I want to thank Jim Powell for serving,” Bradshaw said. “He has done a great job. He is a very nice man…” Powell’s term expired on Dec. 31, 2019. “I met with (Mr. Plunkett) today. I’d never met him before, and we talked for about 30 minutes. He’s a very nice man, a very knowledgeable person,” Bradshaw continued, adding that Plunkett formerly worked at the Capitol.

Towns County Board of Elections

Towns County Board of Elections and Registration, located on Lakeview Circle in Hiawassee.

Plunkett, 67, is a retired attorney living in Young Harris, GA, with his wife Vickie.  Plunkett moved to Young Harris, purchasing his parents’ house, in 2017 after leaving his position as Senior Staff Attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).  Prior to joining CSPI, the appointed board member worked as Legislative Director and Counsel to several Members of Congress from 1989 to 2007.  Plunkett additionally served as an Elections Specialist in the Alabama Secretary of State’s office from 1988 to 1989 where he carried out functions related to certifying elections, training poll workers, implementing changes to Alabama’s election law and investigating election fraud.  Plunkett has a background in community newspapers in South Alabama, rising from a staff reporter/photographer to editor and associate publisher. The retired attorney is a Georgia native, a graduate of the University of Georgia, Athens, GA, and George Mason School of Law, Arlington, VA.

Plunkett joins Dr. Janet Oliva, Chair; Scott Ledford, Vice-Chair, Loretta Youngblood, and Betsy Young on the county elections board.

 Towns County Board of Elections archives


Information for voters and qualifying Towns County candidates

Towns County GA elections

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia released the following information for candidates intending to seek office in the 2020 election:

In accordance with O.C.G.A. § 21-2-153(c)(2), notice is hereby given that the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration will be conducting qualifying of candidates for public office in the 2020 elections on behalf of the Democratic Party in Towns County. Qualifying will commence at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, March 02, 2020 and conclude at 12:00 p.m. (noon) on Friday, March 06, 2020. Qualifying will be conducted at the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration Office located at 67 Lakeview Circle; Suite A; Hiawassee, Georgia 30546.  The Towns County Board of Elections will also conduct qualifying for nonpartisan and independent candidates for the 2020 elections. Republican Party candidates qualifying for public office in Towns County will submit the appropriate documentation through their designated party representative(s). 

Although the Towns County Board of Elections office opens at 8:30 am, qualifying begins at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 2 – the time prescribed by state law – and runs throughout the week, Olivia explained.

Towns County GOP Chair Betsy Young informed FYN that qualifying for Republican candidates will take place at the Towns County Courthouse in the Jury Room on the upper level. The hours scheduled are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from March 2 through March 5, and from 9 a.m. until noon sharp on Friday, March 6. “We will have some board members helping at different times,” Young added.

The General Primary will be held Tuesday, May 19. The voter registration deadline to cast a General Primary ballot is April 20, 2020.

“The last date in which an individual can register and be eligible to vote in the Presidential Preference Primary, Special Election, and Special Election Runoff is February 24, 2020,” Olivia said. “Advance (Early) Voting begins on March 02, 2020, and ends on March 20, 2020. Advance Voting will be held at the office of the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration located at 76 Lakeview Circle; Suite A in Hiawassee, Georgia from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., including one Saturday, March 14, 2020.”

Click to register to vote online

Click to view full election calendar

The earliest date for voters to submit an absentee ballot for the General Primary Election is March 31. Advanced in Person Early Voting begins on April 27, 2020.

Continue to follow FYN for information as the 2020 election cycle progresses. attracts over 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month with a 60,000 Facebook page reach. Approximately 15,000 viewers visit

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Election Board explains political affiliation process for primaries

Election, News
Towns County GA elections

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As the 2020 elections approach, the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration wants to ensure that area voters understand the ballot process.

“During the Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) and the General Primary, you may select either party ballot of your choice, regardless of your political party affiliation,” Towns County Elections Chair Janet Olivia explained.  “However, should a runoff follow the election, you will be required to select that same party ballot. The party ballot you select for one election will not dictate the party ballot you must select for the next election. For example, if you select a Democratic party ballot at the PPP in March, you can choose a Republican party ballot at the General Primary in May or vice versa. The only instance in which you must maintain the same ballot choice is during an election runoff.”

The general primary will take place on May 19, 2020.

Georgia left the group of states that vote on Super Tuesday, opting to hold its presidential primary in late March. The primary has been set for March 24, three weeks after Super Tuesday, which Georgia has joined in past election cycles. Critics of the date change say that last year’s announcement by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger could relegate Georgia voters to a weakened influential position in choosing each party’s nominee. Proponents of the date change, however, cited that the delay would allow ample time for the updated voting machines to be delivered and introduced to precincts.

The Republican Party will select its presidential nominee at the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to Ballotpedia, the convention will be held from August 24-27, 2020. Prior to the national convention, individual state caucuses and primaries are held to allocate convention delegates. Georgia will have an estimated 76 delegates. Delegate allocation is a hybrid system. These delegates vote at the convention to select the nominee.  Delegate allocation is proportional. Incumbent President Donald Trump (R) filed for re-election on January 20, 2017, the day of his inauguration. George H.W. Bush (R) was the last incumbent to face a serious primary challenge, defeating political commentator Pat Buchanan in 1992. He was also the last president to lose his re-election campaign. Franklin Pierce (D) was the first and only elected president to lose his party’s nomination in 1856.

Sixteen U.S. presidents—approximately one-third—have won two consecutive elections.

The Democratic Party will select its presidential nominee at the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The convention is being held from July 13-16, 2020.

Georgia will have an estimated 120 delegates comprised of 105 pledged delegates and 15 superdelegates. Prior to the national convention, individual state caucuses and primaries are held to allocate convention delegates. These delegates, along with superdelegates who come from the party leadership, vote at the convention to select the nominee. In 2016, a Democratic presidential candidate needed support from at least 2,383 delegates to secure the nomination.

As of February 2020, the following 11 Democrats are running in the primary:

  • Michael Bennet
  • Joe Biden
  • Michael Bloomberg
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Tulsi Gabbard
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Deval Patrick
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Tom Steyer
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Andrew Yang

Bradshaw sets qualifying fees for 2020 candidates

Election, News
Commissioner Bradshaw - Towns County

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw announced the qualifying fees for candidates in the 2020 election, Jan. 21. The fees are calculated at 3-percent of the elected official’s salary, based on the previous year. Qualification will take place the first week in March, with the primary election for six county offices held on Tuesday, May 19.

The qualifying fees for the open Towns County offices are as follows:

Sole Commissioner: $1,407.54

Sheriff: $1,407.54

Coroner: $36.00

Tax Commissioner: $1.229.04

Clerk of Court: $1,229.04

Probate Judge: $1,578.31

Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia and Elections Director Rachel Edwards attended the public meeting, explaining the updated voting process while displaying the newly-introduced ballot machines.  A total of 42 voting machines are expected to debut at the three assigned precincts, Olivia said.

Towns County election

Towns County Elections Director Rachel Edwards demonstrating the updated voting process.

A touchscreen device will record the elector’s vote, printing a ballot for accuracy review. The ballot is then fed into a scanning device which records the vote.

“If you recall when you voted in the past, you go in and our managers have to look up your name…,” Olivia said, explaining that the voting process should be quicker. “The new poll pads have a scanner on them.” The updated device scans the barcode on the voter’s driver’s license or identification card.

Senior citizens and disabled voters will be assisted by poll workers to the head of the line, Olivia said.

Concern regarding the small print on the printed ballots was raised by a citizen in attendance. Olivia said that reading magnifiers may be introduced at the voting precincts to aid electors with limited vision.

During the demonstration, Olivia announced that the election office is launching a Facebook page to keep the public informed. Towns County Board of Elections and Registration is located at 67 Lakeview Circle, Suite A, in Hiawassee. For additional information, dial 706-896-4353.

Click for Towns County Board of Elections archives

Feature Image: Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw


Electors invited to challenge voter status at upcoming meeting

Towns County Elections

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Towns County Board of Elections and Registration will set aside time at its regularly scheduled board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 4:30 p.m. to hear from any elector who wishes to challenge a voter registration, following regular board business.

“Any elector who has received a letter indicating that his or her voter status has changed but would like to appeal the findings may attend the meeting,” Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia said. “No prior notice of appearance is required. If you have been convicted of a felony but are no longer serving your sentence and the sentence is therefore completed, you can vote in Georgia. If you have received a letter indicating you are a convicted felon and cannot vote but you have actually completed your sentence, please contact our office or attend the hearings with official paperwork to verify your sentence completion.”

Janet Olivia

Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia

Any person 17.5 years of age who will be age 18 by election day can register to vote, Oliva added.

“Also, we are still seeking poll workers to serve in all elections,” Olivia said. “Poll workers receive compensation through the county for serving, in addition to enjoying the fellowship of other public servants in the community. We encourage students who are 16 years of age and older to become poll workers. Serving as a poll worker affords school students an opportunity to learn more about local government and the democratic voting process.”

For additional information, contact the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration at 706-896-3453.

Board of Elections to discuss possible closure of Tate City precinct

Tate city

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FetchYourNews (FYN) was notified that the Towns County Board of Elections plans to discuss the possible closure of the Tate City voting precinct Wednesday, Sept. 11.

“We will be approaching the subject of possibly consolidating the Tate City precinct,” Towns County Elections Supervisor Tonya Nichols said Tuesday. “No votes can be taken to consolidate, based on the code section yet, so this will be the beginning stage of the subject.”

Should the election board unanimously agree to consolidation, Tate City voters could potentially merge with the Macedonia precinct. The next step in the process, if advanced, will be public notification through media sources.

FYN spoke with Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw on the matter Tuesday afternoon.

“Members of the election board, along with myself, visited Tate City and let residents know that we plan to let them decide whether or not to close it. If they want to keep it open, that’s fine. If they want to close it, great. We explained the difficulty in transporting the new voting machines, and many of the Tate City voters have chosen early voting at the Hiawassee office in the past.”

As of Sept. 10, a total of 43 Towns County residents were registered to vote in the rural town of Tate City. The distance between Tate City and the Macedonia voting precinct is approximately 14 miles.

The Sept. 11 board meeting will be held at the Towns County Elections Office, adjacent to the Towns County Courthouse, at 4 p.m.

The meeting is open to the public.

Follow FYN for updates on future plans for Tate City voters.


Additional Towns County news

1100+ early ballots cast in run-off election

Election 2018

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The election in the 2018 run-off race between Georgia Secretary of State and Public Service Commission will be decided tomorrow, Dec. 4, and during last week’s early voting, a total of 1,136 Towns County voters had cast their ballots at the Hiawassee precinct.

The breakdown, obtained by FYN from the Towns County Board of Elections, revealed that 1,114 voters arrived in person at the polls, while 22 submitted absentee ballots by mail.

A total of 6,166 ballots were cast in Towns County during the 2018 general election, a voter turnout of 65.69%

The Hiawassee, Macedonia, Young Harris, and Tate City polling prercincts will be open on Tuesday, Dec. 4, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Towns County Elections Director Tonya Nichols said that three voting machines will be available at the assigned locations.

For the office of Secretary of State, Republican Brad Raffensperger faces Democrat John Barrow. In the race for Public Service Commission, Republican Chuck Eaton verses Democrat Lindy Miller.

Count on FYN to deliver local and state results in real-time on election night.

Early voting begins Monday in run-off election

Election 2018, News
Towns county election

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Early voting for the 2018 midterm run-off election begins Monday, Nov. 26, and runs through Friday, Nov. 30. The Hiawassee voting precinct, located at the Towns County Board of Elections, will open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with polls open until 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29.

“Several people have come into the office, asking when early voting starts,” Towns County Elections Director Tonya Nichols told FYN, “That may be an indication that there’s interest in the run-off.”

Nichols relayed that the elections office is waiting for absentee ballots to be delivered to Towns County. Applications are available online through the Secretary of State website.

The election to decide Georgia Secretary of State and Georgia Public Service Commission will be held Tuesday, Dec. 4.

Vying for Secretary of State, Republican Brad Raffensberger received 49.13 percent of the vote in the general election and Democrat John Barrow received 48.64 percent. In the race for Public Service Commission, Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton received 49.74 percent of the vote, while Democratic challenger Lindy Miller received 47.60 percent.

Polling precincts in Hiawassee, Macedonia, Tate City, and Young Harris will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Count on FYN to deliver the results as the ballots are counted.

Strong voter turnout continues at local polls

Election 2018, News
Towns County Election

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Early voting in the Nov. 6 General election has reached its second week, and with two weeks left until Election Day, the Towns County Board of Elections Office has witnessed a surge in voter participation.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 0ver 1900 voters had cast their ballots at the Hiawassee precinct, and the Election Board considers the amount especially high. Election Board Director Tonya Nichols included an additional electronic voting booth to the three already in use last week, once it became evident that voters would arrive in mass, in an effort to eliminate a wait time.

Towns County Board of Election staff and poller, Kathy Norton, reported a steady stream of voters flowing into the precinct at any given time since early voting began on Oct. 15. “It’s definitely a much higher count than usual during a midterm,” Norton told FYN.

Additional counties in FYN’s area of coverage throughout North Georgia are reporting a similar spike in numbers.

State statistics show a nearly double increase amount in absentee ballots returned in 2018, in comparison to during the 2014 midterm election.

A heavy amount of voters continue to arrive at the Old Rock Jail Musuem, which was once the Hiawassee precinct, suggesting many could be casting ballots for the first time in years.

Towns County Board of Elections is located at 67 Lakeview Circle in Hiawassee. Ballots can be cast Monday through Friday during early voting, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The polls at the four Towns County voting precints will open from 7 a.m. to 7 p,m, on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6. Towns County Board of Elections asks voters to have thieir photo identification in hand as they reach the registration area.

In addition to five state amendments listed on the ballot, two local referendums related to alcohol sales appear. The first resolution applies to county liquor-by-the-drink sales at licensed establishments. The second choice concerns the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays within Hiawassee city limits, cited as the “Brunch Resolution,” which would allow consumers to purchase spirits at 11 a.m. rather than the currently prescribed 12:30 p.m.

Hiawassee residents will solely have the option to vote on the Brunch Resolution.

Count on FYN to deliver immediate local results as the totals are tallied on Nov. 6.

Nine Provisional Votes Fail to Count in Towns County

Election 2018, News

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Election day has come and gone, and the deadline for provisional voters to prove eligibility in the general midterm arrived today. Towns County Board of Elections reported that of the nine provisional ballots cast in Towns County, all were submitted out-of-precinct, meaning that nine local votes will not increase the state sum.

When a voter’s eligibility is in question, a provisional ballot is used to record a vote in Georgia.Towns County election

FYN was at the Hiawassee election precinct when one such provisional voter arrived at the polls, minutes before the closing bell on election night. After exiting the ballot box shortly after 8 pm, a man who identified himself as Sunni Wolfe agreed to speak on-record with FYN’s reporter. Wolfe, who could not produce identification for poll workers, claimed to be homeless and living at an undisclosed campground in the Towns County area. Wolfe explained that he left the metro Atlanta area five months prior, and did not have a local address to register. Wolfe was provided a provisional ballot by election officials, and when asked by FYN, voiced no issue with the process. A record request obtained on Nov. 8 revealed that Wolfe was registered in Fulton County, however, resulting in a futile Towns County vote.

Election official Kathy Norton imparted that additional out-of-precinct voters arrived at the Young Harris polling location on election day, including a student attending Young Harris College who claimed that he had received an email stating that his vote would count regardless of a lack of local registration. According to Norton, each voter was provided with a provisional ballot.

“Anyone can vote, but every vote doesn’t always counts,” Towns County Board of Elections Director Tonya Nichols explained, “Georgia law requires voters to cast their ballots in the county in which they are registered.”

Towns County Board of Elections tests accuracy of voting machines

Election 2018, News
Towns County voting

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Board of Elections spent Tuesday, Oct. 2, testing the accuracy of local electronic voting machines ahead of the 2018 General Election. “In the simplest terms, the process involves making sure that what is pressed on the machine is what’s recorded,” Towns County Elections Director Tonya Nichols explained to FYN, “It’s something that’s done every election year in Towns County.”

A certified Information Technology (IT) specialist was on-site, conducting the study when FYN visited.

Towns County Board of Elections plans to operate a total of 20 machines on election day, divided between the county’s four voting precincts. Three machines will be available at the main election office in Hiawassee to cast early ballots.

Towns County Board of Elections

Towns County Board of Elections, located at 67 Lakeview Circle in Hiawassee

FYN inquired into reports of public concern regarding election hacking, and whether the Board believes paper ballots would safeguard the integrity of the election process. Nichols assured that it would be extremely difficult to rig the system, as each machine latch where the card recorder is located is secured by lock and key, and the voting ports are not connected to the internet. Nichols went on to say that altering paper ballots is a more viable concern as voters do not always fully complete ballots, leaving portions blank.

Georgia is one of 14 states lacking a paper trail for voters to self-verify.

The deadline to register for the November General Election is Tuesday, Oct. 9. Voters may register in person or online via the Secretary of State website.

Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 15, at the Towns County Board of Elections in Hiawassee. All four precincts will open on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Designated precinct locations are listed on the voter registration card received by mail.

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