Long ballots, missing card slowed Bibb, Houston returns

Telegraph staffMay 21, 2014 

Macon-Bibb County Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson said Wednesday that Tuesday’s election ran smoothly, if a little slowly.

“There were no issues,” she said. “The only thing that came up was that voters voted in nonpartisan races last year, and I think some of them forgot that they had to choose a party this year.

“There were so many races and candidates on the ballot” to choose from, and that took a while to tabulate once voting was done for the night.

Final tallies in Houston County were slowed for a different reason. It wasn’t until a precinct manager arrived late in Perry that a computer memory card was discovered to be missing.

Andy Holland, an elections technician for the Houston County Board of Elections, said Wednesday that a poll manager had properly chained and padlocked the machines. But one memory card was still inside one of the machines. Workers caught the error when they were trying to upload the results and discovered that they were a memory card short.

“The only real bad thing about it was he was the last precinct to return,” Holland said.

The error was discovered around 10:30 p.m. The poll manager met two election board members at the location, a school that had to be unlocked.

“This is the first time this has happened at least since I’ve been working here,” said Holland, who began in 2007.

Workers are trained before every primary and general election, and they should verify that every memory card is accounted for, Holland said.

In Bibb County, Watson said about 26 percent of Macon’s 82,911 active voters -- a total of 22,107 voters -- cast ballots.

There are eight provisional ballots and a dozen military ballots that still have to be counted Watson said, but the total won’t affect any of the race results.

While there were no technical issues, Watson said counting the roughly 900 mail-in absentee ballots took time to count because the unusually large ballots didn’t scan as easily. Those results came in about an hour after the county’s 40 precincts were finished.

None of winners changed as a result of the absentee ballots.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, counties can opt to begin counting absentee ballots as early as 7 a.m. on the day of an election, but Watson said her office begins its counting process at 7 p.m., when the polls close.

She said the elections office is too small at its Pio Nono Avenue office to accommodate the sequestering of absentee ballots, which would be required if a county wanted to start tallying those results before polls closed.

There were no runoffs in any local elections, Watson said, but voters will have to return to the polls July 22 for runoffs in statewide offices. Voters who cast ballots as a Republican or Democrat won’t be able to switch parties for the runoff.

Early voting will run from June 30 to July 18 at the Board of Elections office. Anyone who was registered to vote by April 21 and who didn’t vote in the primary will be able to vote in the runoff.

Watson noted that Tuesday’s election was the first time the elections office had printed its own ballots, thanks to two new printers. She said the ability to do that will save thousands of dollars, because her office won’t have to outsource the job, nor will it have to print more ballots than are necessary.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334. To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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