Election final on Friday

By Ed Brock

Clayton County Director of Elections and Registration Annie Bright and her staff still have a lot of work ahead of them.

They were up until 4 a.m. Wednesday counting the 34,942 ballots from Tuesday's election, but Bright said they still have to wait for about 50 absentee ballots from military personnel overseas to come in at the end of this week.

"We can't close up and do our final count until 5 p.m. Friday," Bright said.

And they also have to take care of the provisional ballots that are votes cast by people who were not on the regular rolls.

"We have 48 hours to make sure they're registered in the county," Bright said.

So by Friday night the results of the election in which several Clayton County incumbents lost their seats should be certified.

And then Bright and her people get to start all over again for the six runoff elections scheduled for Aug. 10. The first part of their preparations for that will be to run "logic and accuracy" tests on the county's voting machines that are now sitting in storage, waiting for the runoffs.

And, as in the regular election, voters will have a chance to vote in advance during the week before the run-offs, said Cara Hodgson with the Georgia Secretary of State's Office. Hodgson said that a breakdown of voters by age and ethnicity would be available in a month or two.

After the final results come in, Clayton County Solicitor General Keith Martin said he might call for a recount as his staff has urged him to do. With all precincts reporting but without the military absentee ballots, Martin's opponent in the race, Jonesboro attorney Leslie Miller Terry, had won the race by a very narrow margin, taking 50.32 percent of the vote to Martin's 49.68 percent.

Martin said he would qualify for a recount if the final difference is less than 1 percent.

But even if the vote remains the same, Martin says he has no regrets about the way he ran his office or the way he ran his campaign in which he never made "pie in the sky" promises or engaged in negative campaigning.

"I'm not going out with nothing," Martin said. "I'm going out with 16 years of doing the best job anybody could have."

As for assuring a smooth transition for his successor, Martin said he had made a commitment to the court system and the people in it.

"I'm not going to let any of them down," Martin said. "It's always been my goal to leave by making the office as good as it could get, and I'm not going to belie that principal now."

The county's other criminal prosecutor, District Attorney Bob Keller, also lost to attorney Jewel Scott. Keller could not be reached for comment Wednesday but a member of his staff said the atmosphere in the office was "somber."

"We don't know what to expect," the staff member said.

Sheriff Stanley Tuggle also lost his seat to challenger Victor Hill. Tuggle was at home Wednesday.

"We're going to continue to run the sheriff's office for the next five months and then it will be over with as far as I'm concerned," Tuggle said.