Originally created 07/23/98

Five overlooked ballots to be counted



Every vote does count. And the Richmond County Board of Elections will prove it this morning when workers count five ballots from the tiny Precinct 27B that were overlooked Tuesday night.

"Five Republican ballots -- five blue ballots in a gray box meant for 2,000," Executive Director Lynn Bailey said Wednesday. "Someone just opened the box and didn't see them."

Election results Tuesday night showed no turnout from 27B, the county's smallest precinct, located in west Augusta off of Walton Way. But earlier in the day, when poll workers were asked about turnout, they said some of the 19 registered voters had cast ballots.

Elections workers checked the box Wednesday and found the ballots after being told about the discrepancy. No area races were close enough for the five votes to change their outcome.

"I'm just glad to have the ballots, so we can count those people's votes," Mrs. Bailey said.

It wasn't the only mix-up Tuesday: Because the last race on the ballot was separated on a white page, apparently a number of people didn't vote for Richmond County Probate Court judge.

Richmond County election officials unofficially counted 23,295 ballots, but only 16,950 votes were cast in the Probate Court race. Then again, some judicial races -- such as Georgia Court of Appeals -- received even less, and ordinarily there is some falloff in voter interest toward the end of the ballot, Mrs. Bailey said.

Tuesday night was the first time ballots have been overlooked in Richmond County, although election workers in other counties have mentioned it happening, she said about the confusion with votes from Precinct 27B.

Workers weren't surprised that a county precinct might have no turnout, because it has happened before. But with five of 19 voters at the polls, 27B actually had a 26 percent turnout -- slightly higher than the county as a whole, where not quite one-quarter of registered voters turned out.

The precinct is so tiny because the intricate intersection of Congressional, legislative, county commission and county school board districts leave those 19 voters with a ballot different from any other precinct that surrounds them. They are in a different district from Precinct 27A for state Senate, county commission and school board races.

The precinct used to be split four ways, with only about 200 voters in each area, but some of the areas were combined after consolidation, Mrs. Bailey said. Precinct 27A now has 616 registered voters.

There are other small pockets of voters: Precinct 11B on Walton Way, the next smallest, has only 53 voters, compared with 11A's 1,780.

Voters in "split precincts" will have the same polling place, but different ballots, booths and poll clerks are required. The split precincts, 30 of Richmond County's 72 precincts, can cost from $150 to "several thousands of dollars" more to run than if they were combined, because of printing and personnel costs, Mrs. Bailey said.

Tiny 27B isn't the smallest precinct in county history. In the 1980s, an area annexed by the city was in a different legislative district, creating a precinct with only three registered voters.