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Posted: May 22, 2014 10:34 p.m.

Voter turnout underwhelms; runoffs to ramp up

Henderson won't seek recount before runoff

Newton County’s voter turnout for Tuesday’s Primary Election was the lowest it’s been since at least 2008, as 18.45 percent of the county’s 55,141 active, registered voters cast ballots.

Voting always dips during non-presidential election years – which for Newton County coincide with county sheriff and chairman races – and Georgia’s primary this year was May 20, a full two months earlier than its usual July 31 date. However, early voting numbers were actually up in 2014, so it’s been difficult to tell whether the schedule shift kept voters at home.

Bested by the state

Newton County once again lagged behind the state, which had a 19.5 percent voter turnout. The main race on the ballot was the open U.S. Senate seat, which featured a wide field of contenders on both the Republican and Democratic sides – though the Democratic side had a clear front runner in Michelle Nunn.

The Republican race for the governor had three candidates, but incumbent Nathan Deal cruised to victory.

Newton County had two important U.S. House races, with District 4 incumbent Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson holding off a fierce challenge by Thomas Brown, while the open District 10 seat had multiple Republican contenders.

However, the races didn’t seem to matter as the 2014 turnout was similar to 2010 but lower for both the state and Newton County.

Early voting up

Despite the earlier primary, early voting continued its upward trend, as 214,975 Georgians — 147,995 Republicans, 88,316 Democrats – voted early in person, up from 162,065 in 2010.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp said early voting was smooth and counties have done a great job fine-tuning the process.

No recount for Henderson

There’s been no talk of a recount, but incumbent District 4 county Commissioner J.C. Henderson fell only nine votes short of a majority, which would have allowed him to avoid a runoff and be elected to a sixth term – there is no Republican opposition.

However, when the last precinct came in, Henderson dropped below 50 percent and challenger Sonya Hunte took the second spot with 397 votes and 30.78 percent of the vote.

Jacquelyn Smith had 256 votes and 19.84 percent.

When asked Thursday if he planned to ask for a recount, Henderson said no, adding that he looked forward to the runoff.

Newton County only had a total of five provisional ballots, so there wouldn’t be enough to affect the outcome of any race.

Runoff coming

The runoff election is July 22, with early voting kicking off Monday, June 30.

While some Democrats will be voting in the District 4 Commissioner seat, Republican Newton County voters will have three other important runoffs, including the:

  • U.S. Senate race between former congressman Jack Kingston and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue
  • District 10 U.S. House race between radio show host and pastor Jody Hice and trucking business owner Mike Collins
  • District 112 state house race between Dave Belton, a pilot and Morgan County school board member, and Aaron Brooks, a corporate salesman and co-founder of a local conservative group.

Voters who voted during the primary had to pick one party’s primary to vote in; they are only allowed to vote in that same party’s runoff.

However, registered voters who didn’t vote in the primary are still allowed to vote in the runoff and they can choose to vote in either party’s runoff.

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