2010-12-09 / Front Page

State-mandated runoff election cost Wilkes County more than $20 a vote

The recent State of Georgia General Election runoff on November 30 involved only two statewide races but counties across the state, including Wilkes, were required to issue and mail ballots, open all of their polling places, and man them with workers – all at local expense.

In Wilkes County, the runoff election may have cost more than $6,000 for only 252 voters to cast their ballots, a cost of more than $20 a vote, Supervisor of Elections Judge Thomas Charping said. The county had a 4.2 percent turnout of 6004 registered voters.

“State law says we have to open all seven polling places in the county,” he said, “and each polling place is required to have a poll manager and two assistants. It cost the county at least $5,100 for poll workers and the workers who set up and take down the machines and all our other expenses.”

The repeated expenses of runoff elections was the topic of discussion at a recent district meeting of probate judges, Charping said. “What we’re trying to do is to come up with legislation that would put the non-partisan election on the primary ballot, so any run-off could be held with the general election. That’s the way it used to be until the legislature changed it several years ago, and it would cut our costs and our work load considerably.”

Wilkes Voter Registrar Gladys Reese said that the runoff expense for her office was mostly for the extra salaries, plus the cost of printed ballots and postage for mailing out absentee ballots. “I couldn’t put an exact figure on it yet, but it’s something we have to do regardless.”

Statewide, election officials spent $4 million in the runoff, with a 5 percent voter turnout across the state. While the cost of a runoff election is the same as a regular election, the low turnout made the cost per vote some 10 times higher than normal. In the November 2 General Election, incumbent Supreme Court Justice David Nahmias took 48.2 percent of the vote. To win outright, a candidate is required to get 50 percent plus one, so Nahmias faced Tammy Lynn Adkins, who had drawn just over 35 percent of the vote. In the runoff, Nahmias soundly defeated Adkins.

In the other runoff contest, Antoinette Davis and Chris McFadden were running to succeed Judge Edward H. Johnson on the appeals court. In the regular election, Davis received 25.5 percent and McFadden got 22.6 of the vote in a field of four other candidates. In the runoff, McFadden defeated Davis by a large margin.

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