Despite calls for a recount and a small number of ballots yet to be counted, numbers released Wednesday by election authorities in Fulton and DeKalb counties indicate that the Atlanta mayoral race is over.
Early Wednesday morning, the unofficial result showed Keisha Lance Bottoms had a 759-vote lead over fellow City Councilwoman Mary Norwood. While Bottoms proclaimed victory, Norwood insisted the “race was too close to call,” citing three possibilities for additional votes to swing the election: uncounted military absentee ballots; uncounted provisional ballots; and outstanding vote totals in two precincts in the recently annexed areas of DeKalb County.
It also turns out that the two precincts in DeKalb were added to the county’s data set in anticipation of the Emory University annexation, which has yet to become official. They did not factor into the election results.
As for the potential provisional votes, the counties had a combined 540 provisional ballots that won’t be counted until after 5 p.m. on Friday – the deadline for those voters to provide identification showing they voted in the correct jurisdiction.
Rick Barron, Fulton County’s director of elections and registration, said typically 50 percent of the provisional vote will be counted.
However, in the era of electronic voting, recounts typically change the initial count by few votes.
“I have never seen it change on electronic ballot,” Barron said. “When you run [paper] ballots on an optical scan machine sometimes you might get a different result.”
The only paper ballots from this election were the provisional and mailed-in absentee ballots. Barron estimated the Fulton County would recount roughly 1,500 paper ballots.
“It might move one or two [votes], one direction or the other,” Barron said. “But it might not change.”
Last month, in a recount race for at-large city Atlanta City Council seat between Michael Julian Bond and Courtney English gave English one additional vote. Bond kept his seat.
Norwood won the part of Atlanta in DeKalb County by more than 1,376 votes. Nevertheless, those votes will also be tabulated again in the event of a recount, said DeKalb Elections Director Erica Hamilton.
Both counties expect to certify the election results by Monday. Norwood will have two business days to request a recount, which typically takes a couple of hours and should be completed by the end of next week.
Thus far, the figures indicate Tuesday’s election was a virtual repeat of 2009 when Norwood lost to current Mayor Kasim Reed initially by 714 votes. Norwood also requested a recount in that race, but only netted one additional vote.
The only time in recent memory where a recount changed an election result in a Georgia race occurred in 1998 before the state implemented touchscreen voting. That year, a razor-thin result from an August Democratic primary race between Gordon Joyner and Horacena Tate for the State Senate District 38 seat prompted six recounts with four lead changes. Tate was declared the winner by one vote. But a legal battle over the election prompted a judge to order a revote that December, which Tate handily won.
The court case and special election delayed the general election between Tate and Republican Portia Scott — another contest that Tate won.
On Wednesday, neither Atlanta mayoral campaign immediately responded to requests for comment.