Officials prep for runoff


A local runoff is on tap for Jan. 5 after Hart County’s election results were officially certified on Monday with one of the highest voter turnout rates the county has ever seen, and a hand recount was ordered Wednesday after The Sun’s press deadline.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordered  on Wednesday a hand recount of the nearly 5 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election with roughly 14,000 votes separating President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
County elections coordinator Robin Webb said the election and counting process went smoothly last week without many challenges in Hart County.
“For the most part, we thought everything went very smoothly,” Webb said Friday.
Of the 16,929 registered voters in Hart County, 75.54 percent, or 12,788, cast their ballots. The Reed Creek precinct recorded the highest voter turnout in the county with 79.87 percent of registered voters casting ballots. The lowest voter turnout was at the Bowersville precinct with 72.11 percent.
“It’s the highest I’ve ever seen,” Webb said about Hart County’s voter turnout.
Despite President Donald Trump and his Republican supporters accusing the secretary of state’s office of mishandling absentee ballots, Webb said there were no major issues in the voting or counting process here locally.
“There’s a lot of doubt, there’s a lot of confusion, there’s a lot of things out there that aren’t necessarily the truth, but Hart County has not had any major hiccups whatsoever and we’re very pleased,” Webb said. “I can not brag on the poll workers, the office staff and the absentee clerks enough. They have gone above and beyond anything we could’ve expected.”
While Hart County overwhelmingly supported Trump over president-elect Joe Biden, 74.36 percent to 24.81 percent, a recount appears likely, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Friday, as the two are neck-in-neck in the statewide race with Biden leading by several thousand votes as of Monday.
The Associated Press called the election for Biden on Saturday, Nov. 7, after it determined the former vice president had won Pennsylvania and the 20 electoral votes that come with it. Recounts are expected.
A runoff for Hart County’s District 1 seat on the board of commissioners between incumbent R.C. Oglesby and Republican Michael Bennett is now set for Jan. 5, not Dec. 7 as was reported on Nov. 5 in error. District 1 voters can go to their normal precincts for that election in either Hartwell, Bio or Cokesbury.
There will be no voter registration before the local runoff.
Early voting in the local runoff is currently scheduled for Dec. 14 through Dec. 31 at 200 Clay Street.
Anyone on an absentee ballot rollover list, including the elderly or disabled, will automatically receive an absentee ballot. If you’re not on the rollover list, you’ll need to request an absentee ballot as soon as possible, Webb said.
The independent candidate Oglesby — who is suspended and hasn’t attended a board of commissioner’s meeting as a condition of his bond since last November when he was arrested on racketeering charges for allegedly operating an organized crime scheme involving drug sales, EBT card fraud and theft — received 30.82 percent of the vote with 600 votes, while his opponent, Bennett, garnered 32.36 percent, 630 votes in the general election.
Bennett has also had run-ins with the law previously. The Sun reported in 2016, when Bennett ran for the District 1 seat and lost, that he had been arrested in 2000 and charged with commercial gambling as the result of a sting operation that included Savannah Market, which he owned at the time. Bennett pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was fined $125 and given 12 months probation, according to court records.
Two statewide runoffs for both of Georgia’s senate seats are set for Jan. 5 that could determine majority control of the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Sen. David Perdue was forced into a runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff after Perdue fell under the 50 percent mark required to win the November election outright.
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat and the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, will square off for the senate seat Loeffler was appointed to in 2019.
The voter registration deadline for that race is Dec. 7.
Raffensperger defended the state’s elections system Friday after Trump took to the White House podium Thursday night to slam Georgia and other states still counting absentee ballots.
“The stakes are high and emotions are high on all sides,” Raffensperger, a Republican, said during a news conference. “We will not let that debate distract us from our work. We will get it right.”
Gabriel Sterling, voting systems manager for the secretary of state’s office, said Friday Georgia election officials have not seen any “widespread irregularities” in the counting of votes.
Dave Williams of Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.

  • The Hartwell Sun
    The Hartwell Sun