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South Hall races still in dispute

POSTED: May 22, 2014 12:52 a.m.

Tuesday’s primary election proved, if nothing else, that South Hall remains the political hotbed of the county.

Races for county Board of Commissioners and school board seats representing South Hall were closely contested, and both remain in some dispute.

When the Hall County elections office tallied the final ballots in the primary late Tuesday night, just 129 votes separated Kathy Cooper and Ken Cochran in the race for the District 1 Board of Commissioners seat.

Cooper gained 51.6 percent of the 4,013 votes cast in the race while Cochran garnered 48.4 percent.

But that gap appears to be just enough to send Cooper into office and Cochran back to his day job.

Disappointed by the result, Cochran said Wednesday morning he was considering asking for a recount.

“It could change,” he said, adding that “129 votes is nothing.”

But in order for Cochran to qualify for a recount, the difference in vote totals between the two candidates must be 1 percent or less.

And since Cochran has not met this threshold, only uncounted provisional or absentee ballots can save his candidacy. 

Voters who cast provisional ballots — often because they voted at the wrong precinct or failed to show proper identification — have 72 hours from the primary election day to certify their votes.

But according to Hall County Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee, even this avenue is closing on Cochran.

Sosebee said the last of the provisional ballots would be counted by Friday.

“Unfortunately, at this point all we can do is wait,” she said.

But just 25 provisional ballots have been submitted, according to Sosebee, certainly not enough to change things for Cochran. Moreover, it is unlikely each of these ballots will ultimately be accepted.

While 129 votes might not seem like a lot, the number was made all the bigger by the low voter turnout.

IHad turnout been higher, the gap between Cooper and Cochran would not be as pronounced.

But less than 20 percent of registered voters in Hall County cast ballots in the primary, and only 15.3 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the county commission race.

Cochran said he thought the election was won in Chestnut Mountain, where Cooper resides.

“I think that’s how all this happened,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Post 2 Board of Education race remains even more in the air, with Republican incumbent Brian Sloan hoping a few provisional ballots will put him over the top to avoid a runoff.

Sloan garnered exactly 50 percent of the vote. His challengers, Mark Pettitt and Traci McBride, pulled 25.01 percent and 24.98 percent of the vote, respectively.

The margin between Pettitt and McBride is just three votes, meaning provisional ballots could determine who enters a potential runoff with Sloan.

“I’ve got one word that I’ve been thinking all day and that’s ‘bizarre,’” Pettitt said Wednesday. “These are the wildest results I’ve ever seen in any election.”

Both Pettitt and McBride said they would like to be present at the elections office when the final provisional ballots are counted and the results are certified.

Depending on the outcome, McBride said she would make a decision about whether to seek a recount.

Sosebee said the last day to request a recount is Wednesday.

Pettitt, however, said he has no intention of asking for a recount, even if the result doesn’t split his way.

“I don’t like calling for recounts,” he said. “It just sounds like sour grapes.”

Despite the poor turnout, McBride said the hotly contested race was evidence South Hall voters are engaged and looking for new voices in local politics.

Pettitt echoed this when he said, “Typically, in South Hall, there are a lot of opinions.”


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