CHIPLEY — It was a long night for the Washington County Canvassing Board — They were still reviewing provisional ballots at 8 p.m. Thursday night (the meeting started at 5 p.m.) — And they weren’t done yet.
The board members were going to have to be back at work Friday afternoon to witness a machine recount in the County Commissioner District 3 race between incumbent Charles Brock and challenger Tray Hawkins.
Brock had 5,319 votes (50.18 percent) to Hawkins’ 5,280 (49.81 percent) Tuesday night when the precincts were all tallied. But there were 91 provisional ballots to be reviewed Thursday, and that was where things got sticky.
Of the 91 ballots, six were rejected by the Canvassing Board, mostly on grounds of the voter not being registered in time to vote. In the District 3 race, Brock picked up 42 more votes, while Hawkins gained another 33 — bringing their totals to 5,361 to 5313, or a 48 vote difference.
“We will have a machine recount at noon Friday,” said County Judge Colby Peel. The recount is mandated by state law due to the narrow margin by which the race is being decided.
The provisional ballots each had to be examined by the Canvassing Board members, which include Peel and County Commissioners Joel Pate and Hulan Carter. Of the 91 provisional ballots, 23 were from early voting. The majority of the cases involved voters who had expired driver’s licenses and the board members had to visually verify the ballot signatures matched those on file with the Supervisor of Elections office.
“We’re not handwriting experts, but we had to take courses as part of our Canvassing Board training,” Peel said.
Voters with provisional ballots had until 5 p.m. Thursday to bring proof to the elections office that their votes are valid, Peel said.
Peel explained that provisional ballots can also be caused by voters having moved recently. If a voter has moved, the supervisor of elections’ office has to verify that the person hasn’t voted in their old precinct.