Local

Muscogee County ballots to be counted, outcomes certified

If you thought all the votes from Election Day were counted, reconsider.

Today, the Muscogee Board of Elections and Registrations meets at 3:30 p.m. to certify Columbus' final tally from Tuesday's historic presidential election and all the other races down the ballot.Part of the job will be counting ballots from those serving in the armed forces overseas, and making a decision on about 400 provisional ballots filed by voters who either lacked sufficient identification, didn't show up on precinct rolls or faced other impediments.

The five-member board will meet in the elections office on the ground floor of the Government Center's west wing. Executive Director Nancy Boren said voters who filed provisional ballots may call her office later at 706-653-4392 to ask whether their votes were counted.

Local victors won by such wide margins that their triumphs can't be lessened by the few additional votes left to tally. Statewide, it remained to be seen whether a runoff would be held between incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin.

Another possible runoff is between the two candidates who got more of the votes divided among seven people running for judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals. Those gaining the most votes in that contest were Sara Doyle with 23 percent and Mike Sheffield with 21 percent.

Matt Carothers, a spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State, said Thursday that ballots were still were being counted in Fulton County, and no runoff would be called for until all the votes were certified.

A runoff would be Dec. 2, with advance voting the week of Thanksgiving.

In Tuesday's election, 74,259 Columbus residents voted, about 63 percent of the county's 118,302 registered voters. About 38,000 people voted before Election Day, a new high in the number of local ballots cast early.

Gauged by the number of "active" voters — those thought most likely to vote — the turnout would be 72 percent of Columbus' 103,334 active voters.

More than half — 51 percent — of those voting in this election voted early in Columbus.

When all those early ballots were counted late Tuesday, the surge in votes caused large swings in some races and confused some observers.

Boren said some have inquired about the race for district attorney and the contest to fill the Superior Court seat vacated by retiring Judge Kenneth Followill. Had the latter been an election in which only Muscogee County residents voted, Alonza Whitaker would have won, 33,937 to 29,443. Whitaker was among the candidates who got a big bump from the early vote.

But Superior Court serves the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, so folks in Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Talbot and Taylor also vote in that election. Gil McBride won those counties by wide margins, in the end getting 53 percent of the total vote to Whitaker's 48 percent.

Also serving that six-county circuit is the district attorney's office. Though incumbent Republican Gray Conger won in Harris, Marion and Taylor, Democratic challenger Julie Slater took the other three counties — outscoring Conger 40,554 votes to 28,788 here in Columbus — and won 53 percent of the total vote to Conger's 47 percent.

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