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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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  • Police are investigating a shooting that left one person dead and two hurt in a South Fulton County apartment complex.  Channel 2’s Kristen Holloway is at the scene, where she talked to neighbors who say they heard about 12 gunshots.  The shooting happened at the Avery Park Apartments in the 2600 block of Charlestown Drive in College Park Monday. We’re at the scene talking to police about the shooting and the victims, for LIVE reports on Channel 2 Action News This Morning. BREAKING: Just got the scene of shooting at an apartment complex in College Park. Stay with @wsbtv for updates. pic.twitter.com/HE0HjejFRP — Kristen Holloway (@KHollowayWSB) June 24, 2019  
  • The search for a missing New York girl came to a sad end late Sunday when authorities found her body in Ontario's Casey Park. >> Read more trending news According to New York State Police, Zyvette Marquez-Rivera, 3, was found dead 'in a small body of water' about 11:43 p.m., nearly five hours after she was reported missing. Emergency crews, including an underwater rescue unit, responded to the park to look for the girl. The Monroe County Medical Examiners' Office will perform an autopsy on the child to determine her cause of death, authorities said. The investigation is ongoing.  If you have information about the case, call New York State Police at 585-398-4100. Read more here.
  • A New York man died unexpectedly while visiting the Dominican Republic last week, becoming the latest of at least 11 Americans who have died in the popular tourist destination since June 2018. According to Fox News, 56-year-old Vittorio Caruso, a recently retired pizzeria owner from Glen Cove, Long Island, died June 17 after he fell sick at Santo Domingo's Boca Chica Resort.  >> Read more trending news 'We found out he was brought by ambulance to the hospital in respiratory distress after drinking something,' Lisa Maria Caruso said of her brother-in-law, who had gone to the island nation alone. She said family members learned of Caruso's death via phone just minutes after officials had called to say he was sick, News 12 Long Island reported. However, Dominican Republic National Police told CNN that Caruso had begun 'receiving medical attention' six days earlier, on June 11. Caruso 'was not a sick person' and had been in good health, Lisa Maria Caruso told Fox News. A doctor said Caruso's cause of death was respiratory failure, but officials are still awaiting autopsy results, CNN reported.  Caruso's case appears to be similar to the other American deaths reported recently in the island nation. Most of the travelers died from respiratory failure, pulmonary edema and/or a heart attack, officials said. Some had taken drinks from a hotel minibar before falling ill, family members told multiple news outlets. According to CBS News, the Federal Bureau of Investigation 'is assisting Dominican authorities' as they look into the deaths. So far, investigators reportedly have not found any evidence that the incidents are connected.  'There are no mysterious deaths here,' Dominican Republic Tourism Minister Javier Garcia told Fox News. ''Mysterious' implies that things happened that science cannot explain.' Although the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory in April urging American tourists to 'exercise increased caution in the Dominican Republic due to crime,' officials have not revised the notice to include any health warnings. In fact, the department said last week that it has 'not seen an uptick in the number of U.S. citizen deaths' in the popular vacation destination, ABC News reported. 'The overwhelming majority travel without incident,' a department spokesperson said of the 2.7 million Americans who go there each year.
  • Cardi B, Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Childish Gambino and the late Nipsey Hussle won top honors at the 2019 BET Awards, held Sunday night at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. >> Read more trending news Here's the complete list of winners:  Album of the year: Cardi B, 'Invasion of Privacy' Best new artist: Lil Baby Best female hip-hop artist: Cardi B Best male hip-hop artist: Nipsey Hussle Coca-Cola viewers choice award: Ella Mai, 'Trip' Best collaboration: Travis Scott feat. Drake, 'Sicko Mode' Best international act: Burna Boy (Nigeria) Viewers' choice: Best new international act: ShoMadjozi (South Africa) Best female R&B/pop artist: Beyoncé Best male R&B/pop artist: Bruno Mars Young stars award: Marsai Martin Best group: Migos Video of the year: Childish Gambino, 'This Is America' Video director of the year: Karena Evans Best actress: Regina King Best actor: Michael B. Jordan Dr. Bobby Jones best gospel/inspirational award: Snoop Dogg feat. Rance Allen, 'Blessing Me Again' Sportsman of the year: Stephen Curry Sportswoman of the year: Serena Williams BET HER award: H.E.R., 'Hard Place' Best movie: 'BlacKkKlansman' Lifetime achievement award: Mary J. Blige Ultimate icon award: Tyler Perry Humanitarian award: Nipsey Hussle
  • Plans to develop thousands of acres of Ohio farmland to take advantage of the sun’s energy — but not for growing food — have divided area rural communities. >> Read more trending news  Solar energy development companies are seeking approval from the Ohio Power Siting Board for construction of large solar farms in the state’s rural areas. Some land owners have agreed to long-term leases with solar companies, while their neighbors who oppose the massive electric-generating facilities are hoping to stop the projects from going forward. The recent increase in solar arrays in Ohio is partially because solar power technology has improved to make it more competitive with other energy sources, according to Doug Herling, director of business development at Open Road Renewables. >> Related: Greene landowners concerned over potential solar farm “Until recently, solar did not make sense in Ohio,” Herling said. “The technology is vastly more efficient and can now compete with wind and coal. It comes down to the economy of producing power. We can’t build one of these if it’s not competitive on the power market.” Open Road Renewables has applied to install two solar arrays in Preble County. A grassroots effort is underway to try to block the projects. Among residents opposing the projects is Rachel Vonderhaar, who farms thousands of acres as a family business. Vonderhaar questions the transparency of the process, saying few people took notice of the flyer that came in the mail two weeks prior to the first public meeting. “When it comes to transparency, there’s a real problem with how the system operates,” Vonderhaar said. “Two weeks before a meeting is not enough notice for someone to figure out what their rights are, let alone to participate, to prevent an application from being submitted.” >>Trending: Cops pose as utility workers to catch distracted drivers Daniel Sawmiller, Ohio’s energy policy director for the Natural Resource Defense Council, said solar is becoming more prevalent in Ohio as coal plants are shutting down. Sawmiller, who was formerly with the Sierra Club, said he worked on the settlement with American Electric Power, which resulted in a commitment by AEP to add 900 megawatts of renewable energy sources, including 400 megawatts from solar power. Projects in Highland and Brown counties, where the local economy has been hit hard by the decline in the coal industry, are a direct result of that settlement, Sawmiller said. Sawmiller said adding solar and other renewable energy sources to the grid will ultimately result in “lower wholesale energy prices,” which leads to lower electric rates for consumers. Solar farms as big as a lake Six solar electric generation facilities have been approved in four Ohio counties, amounting to 12,573 acres, according to records on file with the Ohio Power Siting Board. By comparison, Grand Lake St. Marys is 13,500 acres across Mercer and Auglaize counties. Three proposed projects are pending approval by the OPSB, including two in Preble County that would occupy about 1,800 acres of farmland, according to records. >> Trending: 7 motorcycle riders killed in fiery crash identified; range in age from 42 to 62 The three pending applications were filed with the state in December 2018; among the approved projects, the first application was in March 2017 for approximately 1,200 acres in Vinton County, according to the records. Greene County property owners near Yellow Springs and Cedarville have also been approached about lease agreements for a solar farm there. Open Road Renewables is an Austin, Texas-based company that has applied for the two solar projects in Preble County, called Alamo and Angelina. Herling said the solar arrays proposed in Preble County would result in $1.7 million annual tax revenue, $9,000 per megawatt generated, that would benefit the county, school district and other taxing jurisdictions. ‘Animosities with neighbors’ Concerned Citizens of Preble County is a grassroots effort aimed at stopping the projects. The group of residents who live or own land near the proposed sites say they were not aware of the projects until late last year, despite representatives from Open Road Renewables beginning talks with local officials and land owners years earlier. The group has myriad concerns beyond what they said will be negative effects on the aesthetics of their farming community and their property values. Among the group is Joe DeLuca, former superintendent of Eaton schools. DeLuca said he’s always been an admirer of solar power, but it’s concerning when out-of-state companies looking to make a profit on large projects can go to the state level for approval and not worry about local opposition. >> Trending: Exonerated 5, formerly Central Park 5, bring crowd to their feet at BET Awards “The big picture for me: why would anyone want to take some of the best productive farm land in the state or anywhere and put solar panels on it to take it out of production?” DeLuca said. In Oregon, a commission for land conservation and development has implemented a temporary ban on installing solar arrays on prime farmland. Resident Marja Brandly’s home on Fairhaven College Corner Road is surrounded by hundreds of acres used for growing soy beans and corn. Brandly, who is the fifth generation to inherit the property, pointed to the horizon where one of the proposed solar arrays would be within sight. “It really has torn us apart and created animosities with neighbors, because we feel by their secrecy and not letting the rest of us know that they really set out to knife us in the back,” Brandly said. “If these same people had come to us two years ago, I would have had a lot more respect for their openness and forthrightness. Now, nobody trusts them. We don’t want them on our property … That’s how far down the relationship has descended.” Greene County next? The groundwork preparing for other potential solar farms is also happening in the state before any official applications are filed. The Dayton Daily News reported in May about farmers in Greene County who are being solicited for lease agreements by a law firm working on behalf of Australia-based Lendlease, which has plans to install solar arrays on more than a thousand acres around Yellow Springs and Cedarville. Greene County resident Mark Pinkerton said he is bothered by what he described as the sneaky way in which solar development companies are securing lease agreements. Pinkerton said he also questions the efficiencies espoused by solar array proponents after he invested in a project that wasn’t profitable in Colorado. “Certainly there needs to be some land use policies put in place. There needs to be public hearings ahead of time,” Pinkerton said. “I want people to use the land how they feel is appropriate, but those of us who have invested in the community want to protect our investment and property as well.” Cedarville resident Ryanne Rinaldi, an environmental biology and chemistry student at Grace College, said a neighbor’s field behind her family’s home is one of the areas where the solar array would be installed. She said her research has given her concerns for the toxins that are inside the solar panels, the impact to wildlife and the environment. “This will ultimately reduce our property value, and we won’t be able to either sell or enjoy the space that we live in anymore,” Rinaldi said. >> Trending: SEE: Hot air balloon crash-lands into crowd at Missouri festival Lendlease has not submitted a formal application with OPSB. Messages left with the company have not been returned. Approval, but no construction yet The OPSB technical staff has recommended approval of the Preble County projects, with conditions, according to Matt Schilling, spokesman for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Though the power siting board has approved six projects in the state, no construction has begun on any of them, Schilling said. An evidentiary hearing is scheduled July 26 for the projects in Preble County. The Preble solar projects could come up for the state board’s consideration before the end of the year, according to Schilling. State approval is required of energy projects that produce 50 or more megawatts. By comparison, the village of Yellow Springs’ solar array sits on a little more than 6 acres and is designed to produce 1 megawatt of power. Ohio House Bill 6 has passed the Ohio House of Representatives and could come up for a Senate vote this week. If the bill becomes law, electric rates for Ohio consumers would be raised to pay for subsidies on two nuclear power plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions as well as two coal-fired plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp. >> Trending: Former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak jumps into crowded Democratic primary The proposed legislation also seeks to remove existing renewable energy and energy efficiency standards established since 2008. Proponents of HB 6, including Ohio Clean Energy Jobs Alliance, say it’s needed to keep jobs from disappearing with the closure of two nuclear power plants within the next two years. Opponents, including Americans for Prosperity, say the bill is a bailout for the company operating the nuclear power plants, First Energy Solutions, which filed for bankruptcy protection last year.