The do-over déjà vu began during the May GOP primary that first pitted Erwin against Gasaway, a three-term incumbent. No Democrat ran for the solidly-Republican seat; Donald Trump carried the district with more than 80 percent of the vote in 2016.
In that first vote, Erwin appeared to unseat Gasaway by a 67-vote margin — until Gasaway and his legal team discovered mapping mistakes that incorrectly placed dozens of Habersham voters in the wrong House district.
That prompted a superior court judge to order the first new election to be held in December. The margin of that vote was even closer: Erwin clung to a two-vote lead when the counting was finally finished after wrangling over provisional ballots. The certified vote count was 3,521 to 3,519.
But Gasaway filed a new legal challenge, this time claiming that 21 voters had illegally cast ballots. Among the residents listed in the complaint was Banks County Sheriff Carlton Speed, who was accused of living outside the district. He called that claim "insulting and humiliating."
After a four-day trial in February, the judge found that four of those voters were ineligible — enough to sway the outcome of the race. The results were nixed, again, and Erwin was removed from his House seat — leaving more than 55,000 people in the district without a representative.
The drama was no parochial affair. Stacey Abrams and other Democrats seized on the disputed vote to criticize how Republican Gov. Brian Kemp oversaw elections when he was secretary of state. And her group ran an ad during the Super Bowl with a local Republican commissioner emphasizing the need for electoral changes.
Kemp’s office earlier blamed Habersham officials for putting voters in the wrong district, and in interviews with more than a dozen local voters, many of them echoed that criticism – and vented about the need for a trio of votes.
“You want to make sure the right person is in, but a lot of this is unnecessary,” said Donald Harris, a Banks County retiree. “This should’ve been over with by now. To say there’s voter fatigue — well, that’s an understatement.”