A one vote margin in the Cornelia mayoral race means the two top contenders are destined for a Tuesday, April 3, run-off election.
James C. “J.C.” Irby and Ernie Garrett grabbed the most votes March 6 with Irby receiving 189 votes, or 41.36 percent of votes cast, while Garrett received 188 votes cast, or 41.14 percent.
Audrey Davenport trailed the field, receiving 79 votes, or 17.29 percent of ballots cast.
“Initially I was a little surprised at the voting turnout,” Irby said March 8. But then he realized early elections receive less attention than those later in the year. He also expressed concern the April 3 run-off falls close to Easter, when many families schedule vacation days.
“The most difficult thing going forward is getting people to turn out for a run-off election,” Irby said.
“I wish we had won straight out,” said Garrett March 8. “It’s a lot closer than I thought it would be.”
“It just shows we’re pretty evenly paced,” Garrett said. “I will just do my best to get the most votes the next time."
Cornelia’s charter minimally requires 50 percent plus one vote to win an election, said Laurel Jones, Habersham County election supervisor/chief voter registrar March 8.
Cornelia also had two provisional ballots requiring investigation for validity, Jones said, but Georgia law allows 72 hours after the election for that task to be performed.
Provisional ballots are paper ballots cast by voters at precinct sites. The provisional ballot is used when the voter is not listed on voter rolls or cannot produce a required form of identification, such as a driver’s license.
“They are allowed to vote on a paper ballot,” Jones said, then following the election an investigation is conducted to ensure the legitimacy of the vote. The vote, for those not presenting a good ID, will be accepted if appropriate ID is presented within 72 hours, Jones said.
A voter’s registration is often verifiable through the Georgia Department of Driver Services, because people register to vote when they renew their driver’s license, Jones said.
The run-off scenario also means the Cornelia City Commission will be unable to conduct official business because it will be without a quorum of members until after the April election. The lack of a quorum occurred when Garrett, representing Ward 2, resigned his seat to run for mayor. The board was already down a member because of the death of Mayor Margaret Ballard last fall, which prompted the Tuesday municipal special election.
The Post 3 Baldwin City Council election was also murky following the Tuesday election. Five candidates in the race split votes among each other, but Joe Elam, with 50 votes, and Alice C. Dover, with 47 votes, finished first and second, respectively.
The council race was hanging in the balance, because six provisional ballots yet to be entered in vote totals could tip the race one way, or the other, or even not at all.
“I’m biting my fingernails,” said Dover, regarding the slim lead Elam has in the race, and the potential changes six more votes could make.
“I wish my best to all the candidates,” Dover said March 8, and “may the best candidate win.”
Dover specifically “challenged him [Elam, if he wins] to do what’s best for the community.”
“I’m excited,” said Elam. “The city is going to see some good days ahead.”
“In actuality, I’m not too surprised” at how close the election results were, Elam said. He expected a strong race from Dover, Elam said.
Three seats on the Alto Town Council were settled Tuesday, without experiencing problems facing Baldwin and Cornelia. Carolyn Cabe won Post 1 unopposed. Posts 4 and 5 were contested, with Kathryn Clark easily outscoring Cheryl Closs 36-14 and Greg Pruitt winning the Post 5 seat, 32 votes to 19 for John Closs.
Jones said unofficial election results could be available at 5 p.m. today, March 9, with official results certified by the Georgia Secretary of State Monday, March 12.