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Opinion
One Man's Opinion: Ballots & Recounts & Runoffs, Oh MY!!!
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One Man's Opinion: Ballots & Recounts & Runoffs, Oh MY!!!

One Man's Opinion: Ballots & Recounts & Runoffs, Oh MY!!!
Photo Credit: The Associated Press

One Man's Opinion: Ballots & Recounts & Runoffs, Oh MY!!!

It is November 3, 1992, following a long night of tabulating, and all four major news networks calling the election for incumbent U.S. Senator Wyche Fowler (D-Georgia), when it becomes apparent that none of three candidates have received the required majority of 50 percent, plus one vote

Fowler has just over 49 percent, his opponent, former U.S. Peace Corps Director Paul Coverdell (R) is at 48 percent, and the Libertarian nominee, Jim Hudson is slightly above 3 percent. Public polls by the AJC had placed the race in a landslide re-election for Fowler, by as much as 22 percent just weeks ahead of Election Day. But voters decided otherwise, and though most of the state's rural areas and secondary population centers went Blue and for Fowler as well as Democratic Presidential nominee Bill Clinton, the metro Atlanta suburbs were then decidedly Red and went heavily for Coverdell.

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One Man's Opinion: Ballots & Recounts & Runoffs, Oh MY!!!

Three weeks later, Coverdell wins Georgia's first U.S. Senate run-off, and the U.S. Senate Majority for the GOP by 16,344 votes, and a margin of 1.3%, which was even closer on Election Night. Senator Fowler chooses not to concede, nor congratulate, and Coverdell is later sworn in as Senator during the next Congress.

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One Man's Opinion: Ballots & Recounts & Runoffs, Oh MY!!!

Ballot tabulations are first completed at the precinct level, and those results are reported to the County Registrar. Georgia has 159 counties and well over 3,300 precincts, so even with computer tabulation and electronic tally submission this takes time. At the county elections office, advance votes are often tabulated first, as these do not come from precinct captains, as soon as the polls close, and paper absentee, overseas military absentee and provisional ballots are counted last. In the case of provisional ballots, also on paper, a voter did not have required identification present, was not on registration rolls, appeared to not have reached the age of majority, or could not demonstrate citizenship. There have been plenty of instances in the past of voter fraud, and voters casting ballots in more than one jurisdiction, this is part of ballot and election security, not voter suppression. 

Absentee and provisional ballots contain no space to indicate race. A tabulating poll worker would have to access county or precinct registration files manually to even cross reference that data point. Not easy to do on Election Night while tabulating or days later in an election offices while certifying or recounting without plenty of poll watchers and witnesses present. In the most recent statewide elections of November 6, 2018, Georgia had record registration, turnout and ballots cast for a mid-term election. Minority voter registration and participation also set records, and Democratic Party nominee, State Representative Stacey Abrams, received only 500,000 less than the ENTIRE voter turnout during the 2014 race for Governor. However with tabulations still underway, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp's margin of victory remains slightly in excess of 59-thousand ballots, and roughly 1.3 percent. 

No one questions the importance of each ballot and eventual tabulation of every vote, even when those ballots won't change the outcome of a particular race. But as an example with overseas military ballots, there is no way to predict how many will be received, or by which county, and though absentee ballots did set records this cycle, there are not 25,000 or more still outstanding. State law requires the Secretary of State to certify final results by Tuesday, November 20th. There will be a statewide run-off on December 4th for the office of Secretary of State, and other down-ballot contests, but chances are negligible and shrinking at this point that there will be a run-off for Governor. 

During the 2000 Presidential election, perhaps the most suspenseful/long term, recount in our nation's history, deciding the Electoral College and ultimately the Presidency really came down to a split among the 9 votes on the U.S. Supreme Court, ending the ongoing Florida recount (with Bush leading Gore by 536 votes), resulting in then Texas Governor George W. Bush winning Florida's electoral votes, and the Electoral College by a one vote margin. Many said our deeply divided nation would never unify again, until the horrific tragedy of 9/11 came to our shores a short 11 months later. Whatever the outcome of these individual contests, as Georgians, Floridians and Americans, we will survive this. Let's not wait on another act of war, weather or God be required to bring us together. One of America's historic and greatest strengths has been the peaceful transition of power. That strength comes from our people, and not just from the top.

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