Bruton wins by 15 votes

Published 10:34 am Monday, November 10, 2008

Peter Bruton was declared the winner in the election for Decatur County Coroner on Friday, although his opponent, Allen Ware, said he plans to ask for a recount.

With all votes counted, the final tally issued by the Board of Elections on Friday afternoon shows Bruton, the incumbent Democrat, with 5,037 votes, or 50.03 percent, to Republican challenger Ware’s 5,022 votes, or 49.88 percent. There were nine votes for write-in candidates, bringing the total ballots cast to 10,068. Bruton’s 15-vote advantage means a runoff election for the coroner’s race will not be necessary.

Under Georgia law, because the race was decided by a margin of less than 1 percent of ballots cast, Ware has the right to ask for a recount within two business days, Chief of Elections Doris White said. Since next Tuesday is Veterans Day, Ware will have until next Wednesday by 5 p.m. to present elections officials with a letter asking for a recount.

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When told he had been declared the winner, Bruton thanked all citizens and especially those who voted for him.

“All I’ve been doing is the job,” Bruton said. “I’ve been in the funeral business since I was 14 years old, and I believe I treat my constituents with respect.”

On Friday, Ware thanked his supporters and said he appreciated their kind thoughts and efforts on his behalf.

“I think we did very good in this race, considering all we dealt with and the obstacles we faced,” Ware said.

Provisional ballots made the difference

A runoff appeared likely until a ballot review panel processed 27 provisional ballots accepted by the Board of Elections on Thursday night. Two absentee ballots received from overseas military personnel on Friday were split by the candidates. Bruton received 18 provisional votes to Ware’s 6; three provisional ballots did not indicate a preference for coroner.

To conduct the recount, elections officials will use a special computer to recalculate totals captured from ballots cast using electronic voting machine and use another device that scans the bubbles filled in on the paper absentee and provisional ballots, White explained.

Fifty-two of the 79 provisional ballots were rejected for a variety of reasons, most commonly because there was no evidence to show a person was registered to vote. Citizens are allowed to cast provisional ballots if they believe they are properly registered and eligible to vote, but their status cannot be immediately verified by the voter registration database.

“I’m pleased the votes were counted fairly,” said Keith Sellars, who serves on the Board of Elections at the appointment of the Republican Party. “This [race] shows why every vote counts.”

Coroner’s race unusually close

After being separated by 11 votes after Tuesday night, the coroner’s race became even closer Thursday when elections officials discovered a batch of absentee ballots that had mistakenly gone uncounted on Tuesday.

One-hundred-forty-eight absentee ballots were found midday Thursday in a storage room at the Board of Elections and Voter Registration office, said Elections Assistant C.B. “Cotton” Hester. The ballots were counted Thursday afternoon in the presence of an impartial review panel and Board of Elections members—that decreased Bruton’s margin to only three votes.

Elections officials were quick to dispel any perception of impropriety, pointing out that the ballots had been received on time, logged in using established procedures and placed in the storage room, which is actually an old bank vault, on the first floor of the Decatur County Courthouse Annex. The ballots had been accidentally overlooked amidst the overwhelming amount of elections-related paperwork processed before and on Election Day Tuesday, Hester explained.