Lessons learned after record midterm vote in Polk
The Polk County Commission will have a pair of new faces joining the ranks come January, and a pair returning to their seats after voters made their voices heard through the ballot box.
Incoming new members include Gary Martin to represent District 1, who won without contest during the Nov. 6 election. He’ll be joined by Ray Carter, who won over two opponents in a special election to serve out a two-year term in an open District 3 seat.
Carter will be taking over the seat in January after he won 6,645 votes, or 59.48 percent of the total. Larry Reynolds came in at 20.23 percent or 2,260 votes and in third place Jerilyn Purdy had 2,107 votes, or 18.86 percent of the total.
He said in a late night interview waiting for results at the County Administration building that he was thankful to voters for giving him the opportunity.
“I feel good, kind of shocked. We had three good candidates. I was pleasantly surprised, but we had great turnout and appreciate everyone coming out,” Carter said.
He won’t be sitting around waiting for his term to start for long. He sat and listened to discussions before ballots began being counted at the County Commission’s November
“(I plan to) get to work,” he said. “It’s a two-year term, so it’s a little bit shorter and we’ll be back here again. But we’ve definitely got some things that I need to get to work with the commission on, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Carter wants to look at a number of items as he plans to hit the ground running in the New Year as a commissioner, but doesn’t plan to be reactive in the position.
“I’m a little more proactive than issueoriented,” Carter said. “As I said in the Forum, there’s some things that we can do around the landfill that are outside of the contract. I think that’s one area that I’ll focus on right up front. Of course wages are still tossed around out there, and I look forward to working on that.”
Online the following morning after the election, Jeri Purdy added her own thoughts about taking part in the 2018 campaign, and said she would likely find other ways to lend her service to her home.
“I appreciate each and every one,” Purdy wrote on Facebook. “God isn’t finished with me yet, and I will continue to step up for Rockmart and Polk County, just in other ways.”
District 2 commissioner and chair Jennifer Hulsey retains her seat after a wide margin of victory over Democratic challenger Ricky Clark. Her bid for re-election garnered her 9,636 ballots, or 77.09 percent of the vote compared to the 2,839 votes received for Clark, or 22.71 percent.
Hulsey was also glad to be getting back to work come January.
“I’m humbled to be representing Polk County, and just proud to represent my community and I’m glad the voters chose to elect me again,” she said. “I don’t take anything for granted and I’m excited about the future and I’m hoping we can move things forward even more.”
She said work will continue on initiatives to improve rural broadband access for Polk County residents, the landfill and employee issues.
“We’ve got a lot to do, but I’m excited and I think we’re going to accomplish a lot of goals,” she said.
Also up for election in 2018 but without an opponent was Commissioner Hal Floyd, who will continue to serve District 3 and takes over the seat being left open by Marshelle Thaxton when he retires after more than a decade on the board at year’s end.
Polk County just experienced a record midterm election, with more than 60 percent turnout of all the voters registered.
Though polling itself went smoothly with only minor problems reported with a couple of the machines throughout the day, the county’s release of vote tallies was far behind the rest of the state due to issues that cropped up after the precincts closed.
Elections Director Lee Ann George said that hard lessons were learned about ensuring that everything is done in order when the midterms concluded on Nov. 6, and said problems with the closing down of machines after Election Day wrapped up caused delays as she worked through solutions with the state.
“When they were running the totals at the end of the night, some of the poll workers hit some wrong prompts on the screen, and it froze,” George explained. “We weren’t sure how to proceed, and so we called upon the state for help.”
She said they helped he through a lengthy process to fix the issues, and that release of unofficial polling data as they worked through the fixes was unavoidable.
No votes were lost at any time in the process, George said. She added that additional training for poll workers will be put in place in the future to avoid the mistake in future elections.
However, some of issues surrounding late tallies on Election night came down to voters themselves. George didn’t specify how many, but she said a number of absentee write-in ballots had to be duplicated to ensure voters filled them out correctly, since had they not votes wouldn’t have counted due to errors of marking too many boxes.
George said election monitors from both the Democratic and Republican parties oversaw the corrections made by election officials to make ballots correct, and that process also took longer than expected.
Despite all this, she said the first major election under her tenure provided a new insight into what she’s capable of handling even under the pressure of a record-setting midterm year.
“I learned how to keep my calm during the storm,” she said.
The full tally came in from the seven precincts across Polk County late in the evening after some 12,897 of the 20,970 voters cast ballots in this year’s election.
That was only a couple of thousand ballots behind the 2016 election, which saw 14,323 out of 20,268 registered voters taking place and was well over the 8,216 votes cast in 2014 out for the 17,958 registered voters in the 2014 midterm election.
Though many voted in this election for the candidates already on the ballot, there’s a long tradition of people deciding for themselves who should be in office and this year’s midterms was no different.
Popular candidates written-in for jobs included such characters as “Mickey Mouse,” “Daffy Duck” and “Porky Pig;” also celebrities like Charlotte Harris, Robert Duval, Willie Nelson and Gary Busey.
Jesus Christ also ranked high among the potential candidates for office in 2018.
Others that are of note are a few who wrote in “Not this one,” “Anybody else,” or something akin to it that can’t be printed.
“Democrat” and “Any Democrat” also made the list several times.
“Trump” and “Not Trump” also made appearances as write-ins as well.
The Election Tree outside of the Polk County Board of Elections office greeted officials who brought back machines for the tally on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Commissioner Jennifer Hulsey (front) and soon to be Commissioner Ray Carter sat with family and friends waiting for election results on Tuesday night, Nov. 6 after polls closed in the 2018 Midterms.