Laurens County in central Georgia is home of the annual Redneck Games, and the site of one of the state's largest St. Patrick's Day parades through the small city of Dublin.
And right now it's the focus of aggravation for elections officials all over Georgia.
See, back in the July 20 primary, on 481 ballots, Laurens County incorrectly listed Georgia Court of Appeals candidate Howard Mead as "Thomas Mead." Mead came in third in the race, behind Debra Bernes and Mike Sheffield.
The next race should have been an Aug. 10 runoff between Bernes and Sheffield. But Mead was just 382 votes behind Sheffield, so he filed a lawsuit contending that those misnamed ballots in Laurens County cost him a spot in the runoff.
The courts agreed, and postponed the runoff until the General Election -- with Mead allowed to take part.
Tuesday, Bernes fell just short of the votes necessary to win outright and now faces a runoff with Mead in three weeks -- just two days before Thanksgiving.
Columbia County's elections workers are, to be charitable, disappointed at having to prepare for a full-blown election for the race that won't go away -- complete with a week of advance voting, and election preparations county-wide.
Tuesday's record turnout only makes matters worse. Elections officials are required to send an absentee ballot for the runoff to everyone who got an absentee ballot in the General Election, including overseas voters who'll have less than three weeks to vote and return it. That means Columbia County's workers are having to mail out 2,947 absentee ballots for an obscure election, just because Laurens County screwed up 481 ballots back in July.
Georgia's Secretary of State's office says the single-race statewide runoff will cost at least $1 million.
Your tax dollars at work.
Georgian wins Ohio
Late word comes that the margin of victory in Ohio, pushing President Bush over the top, came from former Columbia Countians Doug and Jean Duncan.
The Duncans moved to Ohio a few months ago when Doug took a new job. Larry Waxman, a Columbia County Democrat who switched his support to Bush when doctor-suing lawyer John Edwards joined the Kerry ticket, has kept in touch with the Duncans. He says Doug told him that when he arrived in Ohio, he canvassed his neighborhood and registered about 20 families as new Republican voters. Duncan also had his employees register to vote, "and got them to vote the right way," Waxman says.
Then, Bush won Ohio. Way to go, Doug!
That wasn't the only affect of the Duncans' move on this election. It also paved the way for Donnie Porter's run for school board; Jean had originally intended to challenge Wayne Bridges, with Porter's help. When she moved away, Porter signed up to run himself.
An expensive waste
Each time we have an election, I enjoy looking over the detailed returns for little oddities and try to figure out what they mean for the electorate.
One thing they show is we have a lot of people who go to a lot of trouble to vote, only to waste that time by casting a meaningless ballot. And this time they may have cost us a lot of money, too.
Here's one example.
One voter at a Martinez precinct, using the electronic voting machine's ability to do easy write-in votes, took the time to write in Adolf Hitler for the state legislature, for district attorney, for probate judge, clerk of court, sheriff, tax commissioner, coroner, chief magistrate, District 2 county commissioner and court of appeals judge.
All of those were unopposed -- except for the court of appeals race. That's the contest going to a very expensive runoff, statewide, because Debra Bernes fell just a few votes short -- thanks not just to a misprint in Laurens County, but to a handful of boneheads playing childish games with their voting machines.
Thanks a lot, Hitler Boy.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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