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SPLOST, incumbents do well in Liberty
Some proplems crop at polls
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Incumbent Sheriff Steve Sikes checks his phone while supporters wave to passersby Tuesday. - photo by Photo by Dan Scott

Unofficial and still incomplete results showed incumbents appeared to be winners in all three contested races, and the hotly contested SPLOST looked to be on its way to passage before the Courier’s press deadline.

Incumbent Sheriff Steve Sikes, a Democrat led challenger Robert Brooks 10,941 to 4,070.

Incumbent County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, also a Democrat, led Republican challenger Matt Mattingly 9,305 to 5,831.

And, incumbent District 4 commissioner Pat Bowen edged out challenger Ted Eby, a Republican, by a 1,804 to 1,373 margin.

There were approximately 600 paper ballots still left to count at 10:36 p.m. Tuesday night.

Liberty County voters also appeared ready to approve another sales tax, with 8,848 voters saying yes and 6,347 voting no.

In the presidential election, Hillary Clinton had an 8,072 to 5,272 edge over Trump while Libertarian Gary Johnson got 363 votes.

Democrat Jim Barksdale led incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson 5,577 to 6,876 votes.

Liberty County voters also seemed split on the controversial Amendment 1, or Opportunity School District, with 6,947 voting no and 6,540 saying yes.

Voters were in favor of the other three proposed amendments on the ballot.

All totals are unofficial until they’re approved by the Secretary of State’s office.

There was some confusion Tuesday, with voters reporting issues with poll workers asking them to declare their party at polling places and at least one woman saying she was told she’d already voted.

Cathy Correa said she went to vote early Tuesday morning at the Shuman Center in James Brown Park, one of Hinesville’s largest precincts. She said when the poll worker checked her ID on the computer, it said she’d already voted.

"They asked me if I early voted, I said, ‘no’ and she called another lady over and said ‘it’s doing it again,’" Correa said, noting they eventually managed to "cancel her transaction and vote again."

"When I left there I felt weird," she said. "I didn’t know If I had really voted or not."

Earlier Tuesday

With thousands of registered voters heading to the polls to vote for the next president, state offices, local races and issues, "busy" is the correct word to describe it.

The morning started out with a steady stream of voters and an issue at one of the polling places.

A voter said she was not allowed to vote because the system recorded her already voting and declined to fill out a provisional ballot due to the concern that her vote may be changed.

Provisional ballots are used to record a vote when a person who is eligible and registered to vote is unable to cast a regular ballot due to reasons which include the voter not having the proper ID, registration information is inaccurate or outdated, the voter’s name not appearing on the registration list at the polling place and the person already voted.

Ella Golden, supervisor of elections and voter registration, said that no one is ever turned away if there is a problem at a polling place.

"They are offered a provisional ballot. First and foremost we have techs that work with our computers and so forth—we can’t just let anyone work on it," Golden said. "We have to see what the problem is, we have to then execute to get the problem resolved. And while that person is waiting, if they choose to wait they can, if not a provisional ballot is offered to them."

Golden did not know how many people were affected by being told they already voted and said she knows of one precinct where it happened.

She said she was not aware of any others because she did not talk to all of the poll managers at that time.

"Our Secretary of State’s slogan is ‘When in doubt, give it out’ and we use that slogan too," Golden said about handing out provisional ballots. She said people can come back later to vote if they do not want to wait for a technician or fill out a provisional ballot.

"We have alternative ways of working with that particular person where the machines are concerned. That’s the reason why we have a tech here and that tech, if need be, will go out there and monitor the process."

First Baptist Church, along Memorial Drive had a steady flow of voters, which is busy for the polling place that’s usually slow during other elections.

As of 11:40 a.m. 131 votes were cast at the church.

Beverly Gross, polling manager, said they had no problems except for people, particularly soldiers, who were still registered in other states and did not realize they needed to fill out an absentee ballot.

Inside the Button Gwinnett Elementary School gymnasium, almost 158 voters cast their ballots as of 4 p.m., which is a good turnout for a precinct that has very low turnout during other local elections, said John Meyers, assistant poll manager.

Dr. Carlos Wright Jr. voted in Hinesville because he believes everyone’s voice needs to be heard and allowing one’s voice to be heard, especially in this time, matters.

"I feel a lot different voting this time than last time because to me it was so much back and forth. Somethings I felt were unnecessary and it kind of made it hard for you to get down to the root of why you were voting for the actual candidate you wanted to vote for," Wright said. He compared to having to pick out the bones to get to the meat of the matter.

He also thought it was important that African Americans vote in honor of those who fought for all people to have a right to vote.

Wright said his voting process was "very easy," although heard about people’s votes switching to an opposing candidate on the ballot.

He was happy for the opportunity to have his voice heard.

Darlene Ray said her voting experience in Gum Branch was nice.

"People should be able to say for what they sand for, what they want in this world instead of somebody else telling us what to do," she said.

Ray thought there was too much arguing between the candidates and called it "ugly."

"I didn’t want to vote for either one but I voted," Ray said. "It’s been rough watching people back and forth. Vote your conscience and the way you want people to be."

Christopher Anthony is a first time voter originally from California. He said his first time at the Walthourville precinct was "simple, easy to do, enjoyable overall."

"Just overall I feel like there are some things going on in the world now where people I guess need to be heard, so I think it’s important (to vote)," Anthony said.

This election was a little more important to Anthony personally than previous elections, which urged him come out and vote.

"I feel very good. I think that I’ve done my part and it’s a fair system and excited to see what the outcome is," he said.

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