Glitches reported in just 3 precincts

September 17, 2013 

Problems reported in Tuesday's historic Macon-Bibb election are not likely to interfere with certification, said Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson.

After visiting precincts all day and hearing from poll managers by phone, Watson said the glitches were confined to precincts at the Hephzibah Children's Home, Vineville United Methodist Church and Middle Georgia State College.

"I have not heard of anywhere else that had any issues," Watson said. "I've been out there looking myself and things were running like a well-oiled machine."

Macon City Councilwoman Nancy White took issue with Watson's statement.

White said she reported at lunch time that her brother and sister-in-law encountered a problem at Northeast High School.

The couple's address was validated for District 3, but they had ballots for District 2 and reported the error before voting, White told The Telegraph in an email Tuesday afternoon.

"The frustrating thing is, it is the identical issue my relatives reported the 3rd day of early voting and it wasn't corrected!" White commented on Facebook.

Several of her family members were given ballots with incorrect voting districts.

Bibb County Commissioner Gary Bechtel said his son, who turned 18 earlier this week, had difficulty voting Tuesday.

The younger Bechtel was originally given a voting card with the wrong social security number, and had to be issued a new one.

But when he went to vote Tuesday, his name wasn't listed on the rolls.

Eventually, the younger Bechtel's name was found and he was able to cast his ballot.

Bechtel said he also received several calls from constituents who told him they were voting in District 6 when they thought they were supposed to vote in District 4.

The Georgia Secretary of State's Office had a team of three poll watchers in Bibb County.

Spokesman Jared Thomas said they received about 10 to 15 complaints as of 6 p.m.

"The number of complaints we received today was very small," Thomas said. "We didn't see anything to indicate widespread problems."

A Secretary of State staff member will also be at the Board of Elections as the ballots are tallied Tuesday evening.

Voting hiccups in the historic Macon-Bibb County election surfaced early Tuesday morning.

At the Hazzard 7 precinct at Hephzibah Children's Home on Zebulon Road, several voters were initially listed as voting in the District 6 commission race when they should have been voting in the District 4 race.

The voters told the poll manager about the error before casting their ballot, and they were given re-coded voting cards to allow them to vote in the proper commission race, said Veronica Seals, a Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections employee.

Seals said she did not know how many voters were affected.

District 4 Commission candidate Theron Ussery came by the board of elections office to report the problem, but officials were already aware of them.

Before 10 a.m., Barbara White, poll manager at the gymnasium of Middle Georgia State College, said she had two voters who reported being in the wrong district, but it didn't take long to correct.

"They tell me and we can encode it over here," White said as voters picked up their cards. "Six is coming up, but 9 is the right district."

At Vineville 7 precinct at Ingleside United Methodist Church, some voters living on Pierce Avenue were in the wrong district, an issue that originally surfaced in early voting a couple of weeks ago, Watson said.

"We knew to look out for those people and we did," Watson said.

Elsewhere, early morning voting went smoothly, she said.

"Just a couple of people, that's usual, misplaced. They registered one place and may have to vote somewhere else," Watson said while visiting the Middle Georgia State College precinct

Even with the new district lines, most everyone seems to be voting in the right place, she said

"So far it's been a little slow," Watson said of first three hours of voting

As of about 10 a.m., 200 people had voted at the college in west Bibb County.

Many Bibb County voters are finally getting a say in who will be the mayor of their community.

"This is a first for many of us," said Lake Wildwood poll manager Nancy Menninger.

She was hoping voters will recognize the importance of the election for the merged government of Macon and Bibb County, "that they will embrace it and come out and vote."

Unlike the last presidential election in which the line snaked around outside the building, there was no waiting Tuesday morning.

A steady trickle of voters came in the first hour, including Debra Singleton, who cast her ballot on the way to work at Robins Air Force Base.

Singleton said she listened to what the mayoral candidates said about what they would do for the city and how they would tackle unemployment.

She was particularly concerned about the elderly.

"They are the ones who undergirded this community. What are we going to do about them and our children?" she asked as she got in her car.

Randy Urben, from upstate New York, just moved to Lake Wildwood a couple of years ago.

He said crime is a concern in every community, but he is also worried about bringing back the economy and jobs.

"Taking care of what we've got, rather than worrying so much about building new," was on his mind as he voted.

About a dozen people were waiting for the polls to open at Northway Church on Zebulon Road.

Dr. Bill Argo was one of the first to cast a ballot for mayor and Commission District 4 in the merged government.

"It feels quite good and we're hoping for a very good day, today," Argo said.

The issues that are important to him include: "having unity in our government and having quality leaders to take us to the next level."

Northway poll worker Opal Stevens said there weren't quite as many people waiting in line for today's election as were here for last year's presidential contest.

She was hoping for a larger turnout.

"I'm ready," she said. "I'm 85 and have a new hip."

At Hutchings Career Center off Riverside Drive, only 57 voters had cast ballots by 9 a.m. Poll worker Katherine Harwell said voters were at the door by 6:45 waiting to come in. Closer to 9 a.m., there were periods when only one voter was inside the precinct at a time.

At 9 a.m., Harwell jotted down the number of people who had voted at Hutchings in the first two hours and taped a slip of paper with that information on a door at the school. It read in part: "Due to candidates' request please record voter totals via Express Poll every two hours. Post this on the door of your precinct."

Staff writers Liz Fabian, Phillip Ramati and Oby Brown contributed to this report.


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