In local community, Republicans hold three-to-one lead over Democratic candidates
The outcomes of Tuesday’s United States Senate runoff elections held little surprises — at least as far as the Bartow County electorate is concerned.
In the local community, incumbent Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler bested their respective Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock by a roughly three-to-one margin.
Bartow voters cast 32,221 ballots for Perdue, while Ossoff garnered 10,723. Loeffler received 32,032 votes in Bartow, while Warnock received 10,915.
In the largely overshadowed race to determine Georgia’s next District 4 Public Service Commission member, Bartow residents cast 32,157 votes for incumbent Lauren Bubba McDonald, Jr. and 10,382 for Democratic challenger Daniel Blackman.
Those results, however, did not synch up with the overall Georgia vote count. As of Thursday morning, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office indicated that Ossoff held a 2.24 million to 2.20 million vote lead over Perdue, while Warnock held a 2.26 million to 2.18 million vote lead over Loeffler.
In the Georgia Public Service Commission race, McDonald held a 2.22 million to 2.17 million vote lead over Blackman statewide.
Loeffler conceded on Thursday evening. Perdue conceded the following day.
In total, an estimated 43,004 local residents voted in the runoff elections. With 75,882 total registered voters in the county, the overall turnout for the Jan. 5 elections in Bartow came out to a little under 57%.
“It looks like we had a higher turnout in some of our more rural locations,” said Bartow County Elections Supervisor Joseph Kirk. “Hamilton Crossing was like 18%, Taylorsville was closer to 34% — Pine Log was almost 38%, Folsom was 36%.”
As for the breakdown of votes, a little over 16,000 were cast in-person on Election Day in Bartow County. A little under 19,000 ballots came in the form of advance voting, while absentee by mail votes were tallied up at a little over 8,000.
With well over 50,000 total ballots cast locally in November, the total turnout for the runoff elections in Bartow County was roughly 10% lower than in the 2020 presidential election.
“Honestly, I had no idea what to expect with this election,” Kirk said. “There were so many things going on at the same time, the pandemic, the holiday season, a race with national attention on it … we didn’t staff quite as heavily as November, but we tried to staff close to that, and it worked out well for us.”
Kirk said some polling places last week had smaller staffs than he preferred. Still, he said the process went fairly smoothly throughout the county on Tuesday.
“The only situations we had were really agitated voters coming in and taking their frustrations out on the poll workers, who, frankly, don’t deserve that,” he said. “Folks would come in and they wouldn’t follow certain rules — for example, taking pictures of their ballots or talking in a polling place. Their response rather than to comply and being nice to the people that were there, fulfilling the process, was just ‘What are you going to do about it?’”
Kirk said few hardware or software issues were reported last week — and most of those could be chalked up to user errors.
“We had a few machines that stopped charging at some point and had to be rebooted so they could charge,” he said. “There were a few paper jams in the scanners, but I think those were more environmental causes of the paper jams than a machine problem — for example, in the morning, when there’s dew in the air and there’s a lot of moisture in the air, the paper would swell up.”
Nor did Kirk indicate there were any major issues involving poll watchers and other observers.
“I gave a letter out so that everybody knew what the rules were, my staff as well as the poll watchers,” he said.
An audit of the election results is scheduled to begin 8 a.m. Tuesday at the senior center at 33 Beavers Drive.
“We’re using the statewide margin of victory to determine the type of audit we’re going to do,” Kirk said. “I’m hoping to go through a full hand count of all the ballots — I’m not sure what race we’re going to audit yet, we’ll have the two Senate races, of course — and then have that done in a two-day period.”
Such audits are important, he said, to verify that the County’s elections equipment is functioning properly.
“Especially with all the concerns out there in the community about the voting system,” he said. “Two days is not a long time to spend ensuring public confidence.”
At this juncture, Kirk said a statewide recount of the Jan. 5 election results seems unlikely.
“As far as I know, no one’s scheduled it yet,” he said. “I haven’t heard any calls for it.”
Amidst State-mandated recounts and facility expansion projects, Kirk said the local elections office went over budget in 2020.
“We tried to keep it as tight as we could and I do appreciate the commissioner’s office funding us as well as they do and working with us,” he said. “The nice thing is, for last Tuesday, that started a new budget year for us … we went ahead and allocated money for it before this runoff.”
With a relatively light election calendar compared to 2021, Kirk said he doesn’t anticipate the elections office being caught off guard by many unforeseen expenses in the year ahead.
“We’re going to have the municipal elections, and of course, the cities do reimburse us for doing their elections for them,” he added. “And there’s really no countywide election I know of so far this year, or anything coming out of the Legislature, that’s going to cause us extra money.”
Kirk said he anticipates Bartow County’s runoff election results being certified on Jan. 15.
“I’d like to get the audit done first,” he said, “and be able to go to the board and say that everything went correctly, because we checked.”