As anyone who looked at last year’s redrawing of political district lines knows, Columbia County was carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey.
But because most citizens don’t pay attention to such details, no one really complained – until they found out they weren’t in the district they thought they were in.
I’ve heard from several voters who are adamant that they had voted in the 12th Congressional District in the primary, but found their precinct wasn’t even open for the runoff.
During reapportionment, most of the county shifted to the new 12th District; six precincts, and portions of three others, remain in the 10th District. Voters in those precincts had a choice between Paul Broun and his challenger, Steven Simpson in the Republican primary. The 12th District Republican candidates (Lee Anderson, Rick Allen, Wright McLeod or Maria Sheffield) were not on those ballots.
Also, if you check the precinct totals, there are no votes for 12th District candidates counted in those still-in-the-10th precincts.
Nonetheless, some of those voters insist they cast a 12th District ballot on July 31, yet found their precinct closed when they returned for the Aug. 21 runoff. Could there have been a mixup in the machines?
“To be honest? No,” says Nancy Gay, the Board of Elections registration coordinator. “Anything is possible, but no.”
She checked the tapes from the system’s accuracy testing process in which each precinct’s voting machines are programmed, and confirmed that the 12th District race was programmed only for 12th District machines, and 10th District race only for those still in the 10th.
That hasn’t stopped a few voters from insisting otherwise, which Gay attributes to the confusion over redrawn district lines.
The candidates or their volunteers were confused, too. For example, Grace Baptist Church on Hardy McManus Road is in the 10th District, so the precinct was closed for the 12th District runoff. Yet the church entrance was lined with Anderson and Allen signs.
Every voter in Columbia County received a new voter registration card this year, spelling out each of those voters’ districts.
When those 76,000 or so cards were sent out, about two dozen – all of them for addresses near Columbia and Hereford Farm roads – listed the wrong commission district. The board of elections staff quickly fixed it and sent out new cards.
That was the only glitch, so it’s doubtful any of those confused voters weren’t notified that they aren’t in the 12th District, even if they are iron-clad certain they voted otherwise.
That includes the woman who, after finding her precinct closed for the runoff, called the elections office to insist she had voted in the primary for “Lee Allen.”
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/