Bibb elections officials certify totals

pramati@macon.comSeptember 20, 2013 

Bibb County elections officials certified the results of this week’s special election for the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government Friday, adding an additional 29 votes to the tally from provisional ballots.

The new results will have little impact on any of the decided races or the Oct. 15 runoffs.

In the mayor’s race, Macon Mayor Robert Reichert gained an additional 11 votes, while former Mayor C. Jack Ellis, whom he will face in a runoff, picked up 14 more votes.

In the commission races, winners Gary Bechtel (District 1), Elaine Lucas (District 3) and Al Tillman (District 9) each picked up an additional two votes, while Scotty Shepherd (District 7) earned one. Among the candidates in districts facing runoffs, Mallory Jones III, who will face Beverly Olson in the District 4 runoff, got an extra vote, as did Virgil Watkins, who faces fellow Councilman Charles Jones in District 8.

Officials also reported that certified write-in candidate Anthony Harris received 26 total votes.

The numbers also showed a higher percentage of voter turnout than originally was thought Tuesday. Only 81,348 people were registered to vote in the election because the elections board this summer removed about 16,000 names of voters who haven’t cast a ballot in the last two general elections. Of those who could vote, 36,065 voters -- 44.3 percent -- cast a ballot in the special election.

Election officials previously thought there were more than 93,000 registered voters in the county, but they were unable to provide exact totals before voting began.

One issue that surfaced during the vote counting Tuesday was how the results were reported.

The elections board posted on its website the results from all 40 precincts, which led many observers to think those numbers were the final results. That led some candidates to concede races before they learned they had actually made it into a runoff.

But officials said soon after the results were posted that there were still more than 8,000 advance and absentee ballots to count, which ultimately changed the outcome of some races. Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson said Friday she would talk with officials from Kennesaw State University, who are contracted to set up Bibb County’s voting system, to eliminate similar confusion in the Oct. 15 runoff.

One of those affected by the early numbers was District 6 candidate Robert Abbott, who said he went to bed Tuesday night thinking he would be in a runoff with Macon Councilman Ed DeFore. It wasn’t until watching the news the next morning that Abbott learned that Adah Roberts had overtaken him once the additional votes were counted.

Abbott said Friday he was contemplating challenging the election in Bibb County Superior Court, but he wasn’t certain he could because of the cost of hiring an attorney. Abbott said he has spoken with several people who told him they thought they were in District 6 but cast votes in District 7.

Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen, who finished fifth in the mayor’s race, said he was given a District 7 ballot even though he lives in the same district as Abbott. That error was fixed before Allen cast his vote.

Officials with the Secretary of State’s Office said they had four observers in Bibb County during Tuesday’s voting. The office has received about a dozen formal complaints about the election, which spokesman Jared Thomas said they are investigating.

However, because it’s a local election, it would be up to a Bibb County judge to decide whether to act on any challenges.

Otherwise, Thomas said the election ran fairly smoothly.

“There was nothing out of the ordinary for an election with new (voting) districts,” he said. “The county has been very, very open with us, and we’re working together.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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