Sunday, November 06, 2022

Early Voting Ended On Friday With Large Turnout, And Nearly Half Of Oconee County Voters Have Already Cast A Ballot

***Absentee Voting Sharply Down From 2020***

Nearly half of Oconee County’s registered voters have already cast a ballot, either by advance voting or with an absentee ballot, before voting begins at the county’s eight polling locations on Tuesday morning.

The vast majority of those votes were cast in person, with 1,542 votes registered on the final day of early voting on Friday, bringing the total to 14,867, or 45.3 percent of the county’s registered voters.

At the end of early voting in the 2020 presidential election, 15,972 voters cast ballots in advanced voting, or 50.6 percent of the total registered voters at the time.

Early voting is considerably ahead of early voting for November of 2018, when the total number of early in-person votes was 11,709, or 39.8 percent of the county’s registered voters.

As of the end of the day on Friday, the Oconee County Office of Elections and Registration had received 1,089 absentee ballots as well, bringing the total vote to 15,956, or 48.6 percent of the county’s registered voters.

In 2020, Oconee County had received 5,516 absentee ballots by the end of early in-person voting, for a total of 19,154 votes received, or 60.6 percent of the registered voters.

Comparable data on absentee voting at the end of early voting are not available for 2018, but final turnout of registered voters (active and inactive) in 2018 was 70.7 percent. In 2020, it was 80.4 percent.

Another 7,238 voters will have to cast a ballot by absentee or in person on election day to reach the 2018 turnout rate, and 10,420 will need to cast a vote to reach the 2020 turnout level.

The campaign forms candidates filed by the Oct. 25 deadline show the legislative candidates spent heavily in the final weeks of the campaign, including since early voting began on Oct. 17.

Campaign Contributions And Spending

The only elections that will be decided exclusively by Oconee County voters on Tuesday are for Post 2 and Post 3 on the Board of Education and the referendum on initiation of a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST).

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Post 2 candidates Amy Parrish and Ryan Repetske filed affidavits indicating they would not accept or spend more than $2,500 in their campaigns and do not need to file Campaign Contribution Disclosure Reports.

Parrish, the incumbent, is running as a Republican, while Repetske is running as an Independent.

Post 3 candidate Melissa Eagling, running as an Independent, also filed the affidavit saying she would not receive or spend more than $2,500.

Republican Post 3 candidate Ryan Hammock reported that he raised $150 in the first 25 days of October and spent $33.

No Democrats are running in the School Board race.

No one has stepped forward to run a campaign for or against TSPLOST, though Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell said someone donated the simple signs around the county promoting the tax.

An advertisement for TSPLOST appeared in last week’s edition of The Oconee Enterprise. No sponsor was listed.

Senate Candidates

Incumbent Republican Sen. Bill Cowsert did not file his required Oct. 25 Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report by the deadline extension and was fined $125 as a late filing fine. The $125 balance is outstanding, according to the state records.

Democrat Andrew Ferguson reported receiving $758 from Oct. 1 to 25, and spending $5,409 in those 25 days.

Ferguson’s largest expenditures in the report were for campaign literature and mailings and for an advertisement in the Walton Tribune.

Ferguson also has an advertisement in last week’s Enterprise, though that expenditure is not yet listed in his report.

The Oconee County Democratic Committee also has an advertisement in last week Enterprise supporting Democratic candidates.

Cowsert and Ferguson are running to represent Oconee County in the 46th Senate District, which includes all of Oconee and parts of Clarke, Walton, Barrow, and Gwinnett counties.

Each filed by the deadline for the Sept. 30 contribution and expenditure reports.

House District 121

Most Of Oconee County falls in House District 121, created from the old House District 119.

Republican Marcus Wiedower, elected in 2020 in the 119th House District, is listed as the incumbent on the ballot in the 121st District race.

Wiedower reported raising $70,825 in the 25 days in October covered by the most recent Campaign Contributions Disclosure Report and spending $74,366.

Wiedower spent $62,616 with War Room Strategies, 3651 Mars Hill Road, for consulting, TV, Radio, and Direct Mail.

Democrat Jeff Auerbach reported raising $5,031 in the first 25 days of October and spending $46,523.

The expenditures are to the Democratic Party of Georgia and the George House Democratic Caucus.

The 121st House District includes parts of Clarke County.

House District 121

Only the Bogart and Marswood Hall precincts in Oconee County are in the 120th House District, a reconfiguration of the old 117th House District.

Republican Houston Gaines is listed as the incumbent, though he was elected from the 117th, not the 120th.

Gaines reported receiving $85,625 in campaign contributions during the first 25 days of October and spending $27,144.

Much of Gaines’ spending is contributions to other campaigns, including $2,000 to the Kemp for Governor campaign.

Democrat Mokah Jasmine Johnson reported raising $7,468 in the 25 days in October covered by the most recent Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report and spending $14,709.

Johnson’s biggest expenditures are for campaign worker salaries.

The 120th House District includes parts of Clarke, Barrow, and Jackson counties as well as the two precincts in Oconee County.

Election Day Voting

Polls are open at the county’s eight precinct locations from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

The county has issued only 1,347 absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 election, meaning that only 258 are outstanding and can be counted if they are received by 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Republican revisions to the state’s election laws restricted application for absentee ballots and eliminated absentee ballot dropboxes outside of the early voting polling locations.

In 2020, Oconee County had issued 7,535 absentee ballots.

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