With a paper-thin margin of 154 votes, or 0.56 percent of the votes cast in Tuesday’s GOP runoff for the 12th Congressional District, it’s all but certain that second-place finisher Rick W. Allen will request a recount, his campaign officials said.
If so, it could be early September before a winner is declared.
“Given the closeness of the margin, I would assume we probably (will), although ultimately that decision would be Rick’s, and he’s going to sit on it for a while,” said Scott Paradise, Allen’s campaign manager.
Late Tuesday, a campaign consultant for Allen, Chip Lake, informed the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Allen would ask for a recount.
Paradise said the recount request might be fueled in part by some “voting anomalies” in Richmond County, including confusion over which ballot – Republican or Democrat – voters could use in the runoff, which led to some being discarded by election officials. “A very vocal number” who had cast Republican ballots in the primary tried Tuesday to switch to Democratic ballots to vote in the runoff between sheriff candidates Richard Roundtree and Scott Peebles, said Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey.
Only those who did not vote in the primary had the option of either ballot Tuesday, and a couple were “inadvertently” handed the wrong one, she said. If they noticed at the voting machine, the ballot was canceled and the voter was issued another one, Bailey said.
Paradise, who lives in Augusta, said he had been issued a Democratic ballot card by mistake by a poll worker and “almost didn’t catch it in time” at the voting machine after inserting the card.
“I almost pressed ‘next’ because I wasn’t thinking about it,” he said.
A federal court order in effect across the district’s 19 counties lends uncertainty to Tuesday’s results. The order, to ensure that military voters have ample opportunity to return runoff ballots from abroad, gives them an extra week to return ballots by mail.
In Richmond County, there are 28 outstanding military absentee Republican ballots yet to be returned or counted, Bailey said. In Columbia County, 78 Republican military ballots are outstanding, Elections Coordinator Jarthurlynn Hosley said.
Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the total of 139 12th District voters issued Republican absentee ballots have until Aug. 31 for the ballots with an Aug. 21 postmark to reach election offices for counting, according to Jared Thomas, the press secretary for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
The delay means results likely won’t be certified until Sept. 4, after which a candidate with less than a 1 percent margin has two days to request a recount, Thomas said.
As of Tuesday, Allen had outpolled the apparent winner, state Rep. Lee Anderson, both in his home county of Richmond and in Anderson’s home of Columbia County. Anderson remains ahead across the 19-county congressional district, garnering 13,780 votes to Allen’s 13,626 in unofficial totals and placing him in the Nov. 6 contest with incumbent Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta.
Anderson, who has refused media requests for interviews and debate invitations since the primary, claimed the runoff victory Tuesday, asserting in an e-mail that “the Secretary of State’s office informs our campaign that the total number of military votes is too small to affect the outcome of this race.”
Asked to verify Anderson’s claim, Thomas said “ballots are still to be counted, and we will not speculate on the certified outcome of this race.”
The margin between Anderson and Allen is even smaller than the 0.97 percent vote differential that happened between Allen and Wright McLeod, who finished third in the primary and demanded a recount after votes were certified by the Georgia Secretary of State.
That recount garnered McLeod only one additional vote.
A longtime president of Columbia County Farm Bureau, Anderson ran an agriculture-theme campaign, plastering the district’s rural highways months ago with his yellow tractor signs.
Anderson won several of the 12th’s more rural counties, including Appling, Coffee, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Jenkins, Montgomery and Tattnall, while Allen carried Bulloch, Burke, Toombs, Treutlen, Screven and tiny Wheeler, where only nine people voted in the runoff.
At Allen’s runoff watch party Tuesday, campaign workers remarked with some bitterness about weekend television advertising by Anderson they felt powerless to address.
Jonathan Dickerson, Allen’s deputy campaign manager, said even though Anderson on Monday pulled the ad, which said Allen
tried to buy government contracts through political donations to Democrats, it was too late.
“They accused Rick of a felony, threw out a lie at the 11th hour, and we had no time for rebuttal,” Dickerson said.