HIAWASSEE, Ga – After the Osborn campaign filed a petition stating cause and the Board of Elections consulted with the county attorney, Towns County will hold a recount of the sheriff’s race.
On August 12, sheriff candidate Daren “Bear” Osborn issued his initial request for a recount. The same day, the Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) opened an investigation into Towns County for possible election interference. However, the SOS didn’t specify for what race or expand upon the investigation. The Board of Elections Chairman Janet Oliva was unaware of the SOS investigation. No one from the state has contacted Towns County about election interference as of August 18.
The county attorney advised that the Board of Elections err on the side of caution and voter concern, so they opted to honor the request for the recount.
In Osborn’s first letter, he called attention to the “small marginal difference of 40 votes a recount could show error in counting, including absentee ballots.”
The certified county results brought the margin down to 38 votes between the candidates with Kenneth “Ode” Henderson receiving 1,884 and Osborn garnering 1,846.
The letter cited “short staffing” during the initial processing of absentee ballots and asked for a review of all absentee ballots.
Osborn requested that all ballots be reviewed without interference from either candidates’ supporters, adding that Henderson’s supporters visited the Elections office daily. This behavior potentially resulted in worker duress. Additionally, he asked that Republican party observers not be allowed within the recount area.
However, the margin didn’t meet the requirements for an automatic recount, according to the Board of Elections Chairman Janet Oliva. The recount falls under GA code § 21-2-495 (c). A candidate must request a recount in writing within two days of the election certification. If the recount determines that the original is incorrect, “the returns and all papers prepared by the superintendent, the superintendents, or the Secretary of State shall be corrected accordingly, and the results recertified.”
Since Towns County is in the middle of two recounts, both will take place on the same day.
“We’re going to do them all in a day, the same time because that’s much more effective, so we’ll do our recall in conjunction with the Stacy Hall and Bo Hatchett recall because it’s a matter of setting the machines,” explained Oliva.
They must physically recount all paper ballots, which will take several hours. The state certification won’t occur until after Friday. Therefore, the recall process won’t take place for at least another week.
The August 11 runoff resulted in 47 adjudicated ballots. These ballots were either torn or marked in a manner that the machines won’t read. As a result, the votes had to be transferred over to a clean ballot by two judges, one Republican and one Democrat. They read the “spoiled” ballot and determine how that person intended to vote. Once determined, the machine processes the clean ballot. The smallest tear can result in adjudication because of the machine’s sensitivity.
As for provisional ballots, they counted ten and rejected six.
The Osborn campaign has turned in 28 separate vote challenges with names of voters, who potentially do not live in Towns County or voters up for being purged from the rolls.
The upcoming recount doesn’t mean that the election office is accepting or validating any of the challenges made by the campaign. The Board of Elections is carrying out Georgia law, which grants candidates the capability to request a recount.