By Justin Boron
Charles Davis watched an 830 vote lead in the District 3 County Commission race evaporate to an 18 vote deficit in the Aug. 10 runoff, and something about the dramatic shift didn't sit right with him. So he asked for a recount.
But when the count depends on a computer that expedites operations identically every time, there is little room for change, and as expected by election officials, the results remained the same.
Wole Ralph defeated Davis in a runoff by 1,872 votes to 1,854.
A disappointed Davis reluctantly accepted the results.
"I congratulate you on your victory," he said to Ralph's supporters. "I'm a little bit disappointed but from this day I will move forward."
Vote counts in Clayton County are carried out in a big white room at the Computer Center in Jonesboro, sterilized from any bias or disruption that may influence the count.
A sign hangs on the door that says, "No one beyond this door except authorized tabulation staff."
Any partisanship must sit in an anterior room and view the count through a window while elections officials sit at a table with their hands folded, waiting for the computer to produce its results. Little actually occurs other than the opening of lock boxes and the insertion of precinct memory cards.
Once the main server, a large black computer in the center of the room receives the necessary data, the counting is automated.
At Wednesday's recount, there was little doubt that the machines would produce the same results as when they originally counted the votes Aug. 10, said Annie Bright, the director of the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration.
"Nothing different is happening," Bright said. "With less than 1 percent difference in the total vote, he has a right to a recount."
The chance of a discrepancy was limited to advanced and absentee ballots from the precincts within District 3, said Cheryl Wilder, the director of the Computer Center.
But even with 574 advanced ballots cast countywide, she said the possibility of change was unlikely.
Voters marking their ballots with x's and check marks instead of bubbling their ballots could confuse the computers, Wilder said.
Ralph, along with supporters Victor Hill and Lee Scott, appeared to observe as a formality, but like election officials, Ralph said he didn't expect a change.
"When you fight a tough, close race that we did you want to make certain that there's no mistake," he said. "Based off past trends, it seems unlikely that there would have been an 18 vote change."