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ELECTION RESULTS: Newton voter turnout up 7% from 2018 Primary
Election workers overcome scanner issues to tally 20,372 ballots
Willie Jackson supporters
Young supporters of Newton County Commission candidate Willie Jackson campaign near the Turner Lake voting precinct Tuesday. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — A quarter of Newton County registered voters turned out in this year’s Primary Election and bucked a recent trend toward advance voting when a majority most of them voted on Election Day Tuesday.

Board of Elections Chairman Phil Johnson said he was pleased overall with how the process went countywide despite an hour’s delay in providing first results because of a mechanical problem at the elections office Tuesday night.

It was the first election Newton County hosted since the passage of new state elections laws in 2021 that limited the time for requesting absentee ballots and other changes statewide.

A total of 26% of Newton County’s 78,636 active registered voters went to the polls or voted absentee in this year’s Primary Election — an increase from 19% who voted in the 2018 Primary, according to Newton County election records.

Of the total of 20,372 who cast ballots this year, 12,083 traveled to their assigned precincts Tuesday for the election featuring congressional, state and local candidates and a series of ballot questions.

Only 7,169 voted in advance and in-person at two locations during an 18-day early voting period, which was a reversal of recent years when slight majorities chose to cast ballots in the three weeks before Election Day. A total 1,120 voted absentee by mail.

Newton County voters’ choices mirrored most of those made statewide, with some top vote-getters including Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock for U.S. Senate; Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams for governor; Burt Jones and Kwanza Hall for lieutenant governor; Brad Raffensperger (narrowly over Jody Hice) and Bee Nguyen for Secretary of State; and Chris Carr and Jen Jordan for attorney general.  

Voters made their choices after the Board of Elections changed six voting locations from the 2020 elections because of space and parking limitations. 

Voters at two new locations Tuesday said they had no problems with the changes. 

The Board of Elections had moved the Gum Creek voting precinct from its longtime location at Gum Creek community building to The Church Covington on Georgia Hwy. 142 after encountering problems with a limited electrical supply and inadequate parking and building space. 

Some voters Tuesday at the Gum Creek precinct’s new location at The Church Covington said they were forced to travel farther from their homes to vote but they did not encounter the problems seen at the former location.   

“Whoever does this does a great job,” said a Gum Creek voter.

After polls closed at 7 p.m., first results were not released by the Newton County Board of Elections until about 9:30 p.m. after an optical scanner was unable to read the paper absentee ballots.

Johnson and other Board members helped the elections staff collect and tally the votes Tuesday night. He said they worked for an hour to resolve the problem with the regular optical scanner used to process absentee ballots. It shut down after moving to a part of the printed ballot that included a blank gray area, Johnson said. 

After a few additional attempts failed, Johnson said they used a second, backup scanner that was able to scan the ballots, allowing them to move to retrieving information from voting machines used at 22 precincts.