Oconee County ranked number 1 in the state in turnout in the December runoff election, as it has in the last four state-wide elections going back to November of 2020.
Oconee County retained its top ranking in terms of the percentage of active voters who cast a ballot in December despite a drop-off of 8.4 percentage points in turnout from the vote in November.
That drop off in turnout from November to December was the eighth largest in the state and 2.9 percentage points higher than in neighboring Clarke County and 2.7 percent points higher than in the state as a whole.
Clarke County was among those in the state that added a sixth day, a Saturday, to early voting after a legal challenge to interpretation of the state’s new election law that reduced early voting. Oconee had only five days of early voting.
Oconee County’s high voter turnout was noted when the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration met to certify the votes from the Dec. 6 runoff election last month.
Board Chair Jay Hanley “commended” voters and county elections officials for the high turnout and the “smooth” elections.
Incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock won the runoff election statewide, defeating Republican Herschel Walker with 51.4 percent of the votes cast.
In Oconee County, Warnock received 32.8 percent of the votes, the highest percentage for a Democrat in the county going back to at least November of 2012, when then President Barack Obama received only 24.8 percent of the vote in the county.
Oconee Turnout Rates
Oconee County’s turnout rate for the Dec. 6 runoff between Walker and Warnock of 66.1 percent put it ahead of neighboring Greene County (65.3 percent) and Morgan County (62.9 percent) and nearly 15 percentage points above the overall state figure (51.3 percent).
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Oconee County has been the leader in turnout in the last four statewide elections and had the second highest turnout rate in November of 2018 and the highest in November of 2016.
Oconee County’s drop in turnout for the Dec. 6 runoff from the Nov. 8 general election was 8.4 percent, which was exceeded by only seven of the state’s 159 counties.
The drop in the turnout rate was 5.7 percent in the state and 5.5 percent in neighboring Clarke County.
Clarke County’s turnout rate was 59.1 percent in the Nov. 8 election and 53.6 percent in the Dec. 6 runoff.
The 8.4 percent point drop in turnout in Oconee County on Dec. 6 of 2022 was greater than the 7.1 percent drop in turnout between the Nov. 3, 2020, election and the Jan. 5, 2021, runoff, which included both of Georgia’s two U.S. Senate races.
In the Nov. 3 election in Oconee County, 48.8 percent of the county’s active voters cast a ballot in early voting, but that figure in the Dec. 6 runoff was only 38.6 percent, or a drop of 10.2 percentage points.
In November, 4.1 percent of the active voters in Oconee County cast a ballot by absentee by mail, and that figure in the Dec. 6 runoff was 3.5 percent, or a drop of 0.6 percentage points.
In November, 21.0 percent of the active voters cast a ballot on election day. That figure in December was 24.0 percent, or an increase of 3.0 percentage points.
The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration scheduled five days for early voting starting on Nov. 28, following the guidance of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
When a judge overturned Raffensperger’s interpretation of the law and allowed voting on Saturday, Nov. 26, the Board did not alter its original plans.
Jennifer Stone, Assistant Director of Elections and Registration, told me in an email message on Nov. 27 that the Civic Center, which was used for early voting, was not available on Nov. 26.
Clarke County did have early voting on Nov. 26.
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In that county, the drop in the percentage of active voters who participated in early voting was only 3.4 percentage points, compared with the 10.2 percentage points in Oconee.
Clarke County did have a drop of 1.2 percentage points in absentee voting and a slight decline, of 0.4 percentage points in voting on election day.
The Oconee County Elections and Registration Office will be moving to the new county Administrative Building on the northeastern edge of Watkinsville when it opens, currently scheduled for July of this year.
Early voting is planned to be switched to that location from the Civic Center in the future.
Walker And Warnock
Walker’s received 67.2 percent of the vote in Oconee County overall in the Dec. 6 runoff, but he received less than half of the vote of those who cast an absentee ballot by mail (46.2 percent).
Walker received 64.5 percent of the vote of those who voted in-person in advance of the Dec. 6 election, and 74.7 percent of the votes on election day itself.
The same pattern had held in the November general election.
Sixteen Oconee County voters cast a ballot in the runoff but did not select either of the two candidates.
In the November voting, 242 Oconee County voters bypassed the U.S. Senate contest between Walker and Warnock.
In terms of support for Walker, Oconee County ranked 87th out of the 159 counties in the state in December.
In November, Oconee County ranked 89th out of 159 counties in its support for Walker, and 73rd in its support for incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who got 73.6 percent of the vote in the county.
The 7.8 percent gap between the vote for Kemp and Walker in November was the largest in the state, followed by the metropolitan north Atlanta counties of Forsyth (7.5 percent), Cobb (6.8 percent) and Cherokee (6.7 percent).
Warnock’s 32.8 percent of the vote on Dec. 6 in Oconee County was an increase of 1.4 percentage points from his 31.4 percent in the November race, in which Libertarian Chase Oliver received 2.8 percent of the vote.
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In the Jan. 2021 runoff, Warnock received 31.8 percent of the vote, up from his 21.9 in the multi-candidate special election in November of 2020.
Warnock’s 32.8 percent of the vote in Oconee County in December bests the 32.4 percent of the vote President Joseph Biden received in the county in November of 2020.
In November of 2012, then president Barack Obama received 24.8 percent of the vote in the county.
In local races in 2018, Democrat Andrea Wellnitz received 26.4 percent of the vote and Democrat Fran Thompson received 26.7 percent in School Board races.
In 2020, Democrat Laura Williams Ormes received 28.5 percent of the vote and Democrat Joan Parker received 29.6 percent of the vote in School Board races.
Also in 2020, 27.8 percent of Oconee County voters chose Democrat Eric Gisler for Board of Commissioners chair and 26.3 percent chose Democrat Jacob Doulliez in the special election for an open seat on the Board of Commissioners.
The Warnock and Biden votes indicate that in the last 10 years Oconee County, while still overwhelmingly Republican, has moved from a quarter Democratic to a third Democratic.
Hanley And Video
At the December 12 Board of Elections and Registration meeting, Chair Hanley noted that Marswood Hall Precinct, with 68.5 percent turnout, was highest amount the county’s eight precincts, followed by Colham Ferry, with 68.3 percent.
Bogart had the lowest turnout, at 59.0 percent.
“I commend everybody all around,” Hanley said. “We’re lucky to have such a great staff, poll workers, office staff.”
“It’s a testament to where our county and where our citizens want to be,” he continued. “We consistently have the highest, or one of, if not the highest, voter turnout in the state.”
“So everybody is to be commended,” he said.
The short video below is of the entire meeting of the Board.
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