Habersham Countians turned out at the polls Tuesday to cast their votes in two separate elections – the race for Georgia House of Representatives District 28 and the general runoff election.
House District 28
Voters were told it may have been as late as today, Dec. 7, before a victor could be named between Republicans incumbent Dan Gasaway and challenger Chris Erwin, which as of The Northeast Georgian’s press deadline Thursday, had only three votes between them – 3,516 votes to 3,513 votes in favor of Erwin. However, a dozen-plus provisional ballots remained outstanding, enough to change the outcome.
“We have 11 provisional ballots that we will be checking to see which ones will be eligible to be counted,” Habersham County Election Supervisor/Chief Registrar Laurel L. Ellison told The Northeast Georgian. “One of those voters voted provisional because they did not have a photo ID with them, so we will have to give that voter until 5 p.m. Friday to bring it in, in order for their ballot to be counted.”
In Habersham County, according to results released Tuesday by the Habersham County Elections and Voter Registration Office, Gasaway received 51.90 percent of the votes (725 voters), with Erwin receiving 48.10 percent of the votes (672 voters).
According to The Toccoa Record, The Northeast Georgian’s sister newspaper, in Stephens County, the majority of voters gave the nod to Gasaway with 1,597 votes, leaving Erwin with 1,086 votes.
“Two of the three [Stephens County] provisional ballots have been disqualified because they were not registered before the April deadline prior to the May primary,” The Record Publisher Tom Law reported Thursday. “The third provisional ballot will be looked at and decided on tomorrow, Friday.”
In Banks County, The Record reported Erwin piled up 1,758 votes – 567 more than Gasaway’s 1,191.
Stephens County Election Superintendent Bill Cochran told The Record his office had three provisional ballots, decisions on which would be made Friday as to if they could be counted or not. Cochran said the provisionals are voters who were not listed on the official roll of voters, The Record reported.
“That’s anyone that thought they were registered in a timely manner, but were not on the registered list, if they voted out of precinct, or they did not have proper identification,” he told The Record.
The Banks County elections office reported two provisional ballots remained to be determined there, The Record reported.
Reason for the ‘redo’
Voters in Banks, Habersham and Stephens counties returned to the polls this week to cast their ballots in the election, a redo called for in September by a judge in Banks County after it was determined what Habersham County officials called a House districting error could have impacted results of the May 22 primary election.
Gasaway filed a lawsuit June 7 in Fulton County Superior Court against defendants Ellison, Erwin and then-Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp alleging a districting error affected results of the election, which he lost to Erwin by 67 votes across Banks, Habersham and Stephens counties.
Ellison notified some Habersham County voters in June they fell victim to a House districting error.
Both versions of letters mailed out to voters in districts 10 and 28, dated June 15 and signed by Ellison, stated, “You are receiving this letter because your address was found to have been placed in the wrong House District due to a past voting precinct redistricting issue.”
Gasaway, represented by attorney Jake Evans of the Atlanta-based Thompson Hine law firm, said he and his attorney had identified more than “700 wrongly allocated voters” in Habersham County.
After admitting errors were made, Habersham County called for a new election in the race.
The Habersham County Commission also announced that month it asked Ellison to seek third-party verification that Habersham County voters had been assigned to their proper legislative district, prior to the upcoming Nov. 6 general election, according to a Sept. 14 press release from Anderson. The verification was completed two weeks later, Anderson stated in a follow-up release.
General runoff election
In Habersham County, Republican Brad Raffensperger beat out Democrat John Barrow – 83.45 percent (5,319 voters) to 16.55 percent (1,055 voters). Similar results were reflected across Georgia, with Raffensperger being named new secretary of state.
“We started our campaign in Thomasville, Georgia, in the southwest corner of Georgia. Over the past 18 months as I have traveled throughout Georgia, I have said that my goal is to be the secretary of state for the entire state,” Raffensperger said in his victory speech election night. “What binds us together is our love of faith, family, freedom and the hope for a better tomorrow. We are a people who look up and don’t look back. As secretary of state, I want every Georgian to know that I will fight for you. You need to know that as secretary of state, I will be in everyone’s corner. Fighting for clean, fair elections and streamlining licensing and registering corporations. That’s why I ran for secretary of state. I’m looking forward to getting started. God bless all of you. Thank you.”
In Habersham County, Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton held onto his seat on the Georgia Public Service Commission, defeating challenger Democrat Lindy Miller with 82.05 percent (5,205 voters) to 17.95 percent (1,139 voters). It was, again, the same story across Georgia as Eaton was named the victor in the re-election.
“It looks like we have won the election,” Eaton posted on his official Twitter account. “Thanks to the voters of Georgia for honoring me with another term. I look forward to working with [governor]-elect @BrianKempGA to build on the legacy of @GovernorDeal #gapol #gagop.”
See the Midweek edition of The Northeast Georgian for continued coverage of the House District 28 election “redo.”