Two-thirds of local voters said yes to the sale of alcohol on Sundays in the unincorporated parts of Bryan County, but it was unclear early Wednesday exactly when the new law will take effect.
County officials still were trying to pin down a date when Sunday sales can begin after nearly 67 percent of voters approved a referendum on whether such sales should be legal, but it’s likely to be at some point in 2015, they say.
What was clear Wednesday was the support for Sunday sales, at least among voters. Though the results of Tuesday’s election are unofficial until approved by the secretary of State and there still were approximately 10 provisional ballots to be counted, 5,331 voters said yes to Sunday sales while 2,640 said no.
County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said he expected the measure to pass, though he admitted surprise at the number of voters who were for it.
“I thought it would pass, and either way, people have had the opportunity to address it, both ways, against it or for it,” he said. “The biggest problem I had with it was that I didn’t think it was necessary to have Sunday sales to begin with.”
The measure, which will allow the sale of alcohol in stores, passed in each of Bryan County’s 10 precincts, though it was closer in some than in others and closest in Black Creek, where 377 voters said yes and 347 voted no.
Still, Sunday sales won by overwhelming majorities in larger precincts in South Bryan and Richmond Hill. Voters at the J.F. Gregory Park precinct voted 938-354 in favor of Sunday sales; those in Keller said yes by an 871-357 count; and those in the Highway 144 East precinct approved the measure by a vote of 710-264. Pembroke residents voted 431-313 in favor of the measure, and those in Ellabell said yes, 322-231.
The alcohol referendum wasn’t the only thing on the ballot, though it was the only local matter that gave voters a choice. Incumbent county-commission members Wade Price (District 2) and Carter Infinger (District 4) returned to office after running unopposed in the primaries. Former commissioner Rick Gardner also was unopposed in the general election and reclaimed a seat he held for two terms after winning the Republican primary over incumbent Jimmy Henderson in May.
School Board Chairman Eddie Warren, Paine Bacon (District 1), Marianne Smith (District 4) and David Schwartz (District 5) also returned to office after running unopposed.
Bryan County voters also helped re-elect incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and boosted David Perdue, a Republican, in his defeat of Democrat Michelle Nunn for one of Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats. And Bryan voters overwhelmingly cast votes for Pooler pharmacist and former state senator Buddy Carter, a Republican, in his successful bid for the congressional seat vacated by Jack Kingston. Carter captured more than 75 percent of the votes in Bryan County over his opponent, Savannah Democrat Brian Reese. Perdue also received more than 70 percent of the votes in Bryan County, and Deal came close, with 69.38 percent of local voters choosing him over Democrat Jason Carter.
After dismal turnout in the primaries — with only about 15 percent of the county’s approximately 21,000 registered voters bothering to show up — elections officials had predicted a light turnout of the midterm elections, in part because of an absence of local races and no presidential election.
Instead, more than 42 percent of Bryan County’s voters went to the polls. Elections Supervisor Cindy Reynolds said she didn’t think it was due specifically to the referendum on Sunday sales and may have been a sign people wanted to be heard.
“I think people just wanted to have their say,” she said. “I think people wanted a change.”
Having a voice in the process is important to Jasmine Blade, a Richmond Hill resident who was back home after three years in the military. She stood in line Tuesday night to vote at the J.F. Gregory Park precinct, where turnout picked up after people started getting off of work.
“Every vote counts,” she said. “If you don’t vote, things won’t change.”
Mattie Smith, Blade’s grandmother, also voted at J.F. Gregory. Smith said she cast her first ballot in 1963.
“I vote to try and make a difference,” she said.
Joe Williams, who is retired Navy and lives in Richmond Hill, said U.S. citizens don’t realize what they have. He also stood in line at the precinct at J.F. Gregory to vote.
“I’ve been in countries where they don’t have that right,” he said. “Everyone who is a U.S. citizen should exercise their right to vote, because it’s really a privilege to be able to vote. You’re doing an injustice to your country by not voting.”