Cobb Commission District 2 Republican primary goes to runoff

Fitz Johnson, Cobb Commission candidate
Fitz Johnson

More than a week after the primary elections, the two candidates who’ll be moving on in the Aug. 11 Republican runoff for District 2 on the Cobb Board of Commissioners have been certified.

The Cobb Board of Registration and Elections on Friday certified that Fitz Johnson of Vinings and Andy Smith of East Cobb emerged as the top two finishers in a three-candidate race that was separated by fewer than 1,000 votes.

The board certified all of Cobb’s primary results on Friday, after a delayed process that included counting a record 107,000 absentee ballots.

According to the certified tabulations, Johnson received 6,656 votes, or 36.2 percent of the ballots cast.

Smith got 5,946 votes, or 32.2 percent. Kevin Nicholas, also of East Cobb, received 5,770 votes, or 31.4 percent. They were running to succeed retiring commissioner Bob Ott, with the GOP winner facing Jerica Richardson, the only Democratic candidate, in November.

Voting figures reported on the June 9 primary election day were very close, and remained that way as the absentee voting updates were added.

Andy Smith, Cobb commission candidate
Andy Smith

“Yes, it was very close, and maybe that’s the way it should be,” said Smith, a former member of the Cobb Planning Commission. “There were three very good candidates and I think District 2 would be well represented by any of them.”

Johnson, a first-time candidate for county office who previously ran for state school superintendent, won 24 of the 39 precincts in District 2, which includes most of East Cobb and some of the Smyrna-Vinings-Cumberland area.

He won 11 precincts in East Cobb, mostly by very slender margins (click here for a hover map with precinct totals).

“I’m not from East Cobb, and so we had to make sure we really got out in East Cobb a lot,” Johnson said.

Cobb BOC District 2 GOP primary precinct map
To view individual precinct results click here. Johnson won precincts in blue, Smith in light green and Nicholas in turquoise. There was a tie in the Dickerson 1 precinct, shaded in beige.

Nicholas, a member of the Development Authority of Cobb County and a candidate for the Cobb County Board of Education in 2014, also was running for the commission for the first time.

After East Cobb News requested comment from Nicholas, he e-mailed a statement saying that “I am proud of the grass roots campaign we ran, representing our neighbors—not special interests, and a huge thank you to the thousands of voters who supported me.”

Johnson and Smith said they will keep stressing issues they heard a lot from voters, especially public safety, during the runoff campaign.

They both said they’re eager to do more in-person campaigning, as more restrictions on public gatherings in Georgia have been lifted.

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Cobb Commission District 2 Republican race still razor-thin

Cobb Commission District 2 race
From left, Fitz Johnson, Andy Smith, Kevin Nicholas

According to Cobb Elections on Tuesday morning, 9,500 absentee ballots still have to be counted from last week’s primary elections.

The process may have to be fully completed before it’s known who will be moving on to an Aug. 11 Republican runoff in the District 2 race for the Cobb Board of Commissioners.

The three GOP primary candidates are currently separated by 636 votes, and the top two finishers will continue to campaign.

As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, Vinings resident Fitz Johnson leads with 6,468 votes, or 36 percent. Former Cobb Planning Commission member Andy Smith has received 5,832 votes, or 32.5 percent, and Cobb Development Authority member Kevin Nicholas has 5,640 votes, or 31.4 percent.

They are vying to succeed Bob Ott, a Republican who is retiring after three terms.

(Track real-time updates here.)

Since we last tracked the results on Friday, Johnson had opened up a slightly bigger lead, and Smith separated himself a little bit more from Nicholas.

Cobb Elections staff worked into the weekend counting absentee ballots, and after Saturday still had 16,000 ballots to go. It’s not known how many of the uncounted ballots are Republican ballots cast by voters in District 2.

More than 106,000 absentee ballots were cast in the primary, a record in Cobb, and Democratic turnout has been higher overall.

Despite the close race in District 2, which is heavily Republican and includes most of East Cobb, a total of 17,940 votes have been cast for the three GOP candidates combined.

By contrast, Jerica Richardson, the only Democrat who qualified in the District 2 race, has 23,173 votes. She will face the Republican runoff winner in November.

Commissioner Lisa Cupid, the only Democrat running for Cobb Commission Chairman, got 87,555 votes. She will meet Republican incumbent Mike Boyce, who won the GOP primary wit 68 percent of the vote but received only 44,443 votes.

A total of 65,419 votes have been cast for the three GOP chairman candidates.

In Cobb Board of Education Post 5 results, Republican incumbent David Banks won a three-way primary with 6,943 votes. But his November Democratic opponent, first-time candidate Julia Hurtado, prevailed against one other foe and got 6,391 votes in a post that has been heavily GOP for years.

The Cobb Board of Elections and Registration, which certifies elections results, has postponed its scheduled meeting from Wednesday to Friday at 12 p.m. That meeting will be held online, and the public can watch by signing up here.

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East Cobb Election Update: 2020 primary results breakdown

Georgia runoff elections

While all results from Tuesday’s primary elections remain unofficial—and a few, like the District 2 Cobb Board of Commissioners Republican race—are still too close to call—we’re serving up here a breakdown how voters in the county, and in particular East Cobb, voted the way they did in a variety of local, state and federal elections.

Absentee ballot-counting is going on this weekend, and a controversy that’s sure to linger into the November general election centers on who’s to blame for the problems many voters had on Tuesday.

If you want to look through Cobb-specific results on one link, click here. Otherwise, what follows are the latest vote tallies, as of late Saturday morning, listing the top finishers in selected contested primaries.

Keep in mind that results won’t be certified until next Friday, and that runoffs will take place on Aug. 11 in races in which the leading vote-getter did not receive 50 percent plus one vote in the primary.

You can track updates in real-time by clicking the link for each race that includes precinct-by-precinct totals:

Cobb Commission Chairman (GOP)

  • Mike Boyce (incumbent): 40,671 (68.4%)

    Mike Boyce, Cobb Commission Chairman
    Mike Boyce
  • Larry Savage: 14,274 (24%)
  • Ricci Mason 4,515 (7.6%)
  • View full results

Cobb Commission District 2 (GOP)

  • Fitz Johnson: 5,715 (35.6%)
  • Andy Smith: 5,238 (32.6%)
  • Kevin Nicholas: 5,074 (3.166)
  • View full results

Cobb Board of Education Post 5 (GOP)

  • David Banks (incumbent): 6,383 (55%)
  • Shelley O’Malley: 2,802 (24%)
  • Matt Harper: 2,405 (20%)
  • View full results

Cobb Board of Education Post 5 (Democrat)

  • Julia Hurtado: 5,581 (58%)

    Julia Hurtado, Cobb school board candidate
    Julia Hurtado
  • Tammy Andress: 4,043 (42%)
  • View full results

U.S. Senate (Democrat)

6th District U.S. House (GOP)

Cobb Superior Court Judge (non-partisan)

  • Jason Marbutt: 51,682 (38.8%)
  • Greg Shenton: 43,696 (32.8%)
  • John Robert Greco: 37,856 (28.4%)
  • View full results

Cobb Superior Court Judge (non-partisan)

  • Kellie Hill: 87,246 (63%)

    Kellie Hill
    Kellie Hill
  • Daniele Johnson: 50.281 (36.8%)
  • View full results

Cobb Superior Court Judge (non-partisan)

  • Angela Brown: 83,335 (57%)
  • Reuben Green (incumbent): 62,396 (42.8%)

46th District Georgia House (Democrat)

Cobb Sheriff (Democrat)

  • Craig Owens: 41,350 (49%)
  • Greg Gilstrap: 22,554 (26.8%)
  • Jimmy Herndon: 20,185 (24%)
  • View full results

Cobb State Court Judge Post 6 (non-partisan)

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Boyce defends Cobb Elections, blasts Ga. Secretary of State

Cobb budget town hall, Mike Boyce, Cobb public safety bonus, Cobb millage rate

Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce had some harsh words this week for the Georgia Secretary of State and strongly defended the county’s elections chief as absentee ballot counting from Tuesday’s primary elections continues into the weekend.

In his weekly newsletter issued Friday, Boyce modified comments he made earlier this week that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger should resign over his handling of the elections, a subject that’s drawn national attention.

Voting issues included new machines that didn’t work properly in some precincts, including several in Cobb County, and that caused long voter lines that lasted for hours in certain areas, especially in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Raffensperger blamed county elections offices for a lack of staffing and training, which caused a furor at the local level.

He’s a Republican, as is Boyce, who won 67 percent of the in-person vote during Tuesday’s GOP primary. In November, Boyce will face Democratic commissioner Lisa Cupid.

“I have since sent the Secretary of State an email stating if he would own up to his office’s responsibility for the problems, and work toward a solution to prevent them from happening again, I would reassess my position,” Boyce said in his newsletter.

He especially defended the Cobb Board of Elections and Registration and director Janine Eveler. Shifting blame to her and her staff, Boyce, said, “is not warranted. They have all been true public servants and are continuing to do so. This endorsement comes from watching all that they have been doing over many months to prepare for this election. We should be optimistic that a record number of people voted in this primary and did so by absentee balloting. Every one of these absentee ballots has to be validated and scanned. It takes time.”

Cobb government spokesman Ross Cavitt said by midday Friday 73,000 absentee ballots had been counted, and another 33,000 to 36,000 are still left to be counted. On Thursday, the uncounted number was more than 61,000.

The record absentee ballots were the result of COVID-19, and Cavitt estimates that 109,000 absentee ballots will be counted—which represents around a fifth of the 518,000 registered voters in Cobb County. He also said 1,250 provisional ballots also are being counted.

(You can monitor the counting by clicking here.)

Among the local races hanging in the balance of absentee voting is the Republican primary for District 2 on the Cobb Board of Commissioners, which includes some of East Cobb. Fitz Johnson leads with 35.7 percent of the vote, followed by Andy Smith with 32.5 percent and Kevin Nicholas with with 31 percent.

All three candidates are separated by less than 500 votes. An Aug. 11 runoff awaits for the top two finishers, but primary results won’t be certified until next Friday.

Boyce said it wasn’t a surprise that given all the circumstances there would be election-day problems. “But I have learned that once you have to defend a position to the public you generally have lost the argument. So we are going to own up to the problems and fix them.”

Boyce added that November’s elections—which include two U.S. Senate races in Georgia as well as a presidential contest—will attract even more voters “and we can expect similar circumstances.

“As much as I believe the current system is broken, I don’t see it being replaced or repaired in a significant way before November,” he said in his newsletter, which is distributed to Cobb citizens. “What I can assure you is that the elections team is taking the necessary measures to ensure that your vote is protected and counted.”

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More than 61K Cobb absentee ballots still to be counted

We noted Wednesday the long task facing Cobb Elections in counting a record number of absentee ballots, a process that will go into Friday. cobb advance voting, Cobb voter registration deadline, Walton and Dickerson PTSA candidates forum

Cobb County government sent out word at 3 p.m. Thursday that the number of absentee ballots has exceeded 105,000, with more than 61,000 still to be counted, and the process may not be complete until the weekend:

The number of absentee ballots that were mailed or turned in for the June 9th primary in Cobb is now up to more than 105,000. There are a few more still being checked in that were dropped off by the 7 pm Tuesday deadline. We expect elections teams will be working into the weekend to get these ballots processed and scanned in so they can be added to the results.
As of mid-afternoon, there were in excess of 61,500 absentee ballots that had yet to be included in the results.

Cobb Elections has expanded the locations where they are counting absentee ballots. A record (by far) number of voters used absentee voting in the June 9th primary, with well in excess of 90,000 ballots to count. The majority of those remain to be counted, and the results (found at https://bit.ly/2AkK9YY) will continue to be updated throughout the day. Stay tuned for updates on the counting. Workers are currently counting ballots at:

  • 1) Main Elections Office, 736 Whitlock Ave., Marietta
    Absentee Voting Room – Viewing from outside through the windows
    Elections Reception Lobby – Enter Main entrance, viewing from the hallway through suite door/window
    Upstairs Training Room – Enter Main entrance, follow signs, viewing area inside room

  • 2) Jim Miller Park Event Center, 2245 Callaway Rd SW, Marietta, GA 30008

Cobb government spokesman Ross Cavitt issued an alert at 6 p.m. Thursday that the Cobb Board of Elections and Elections is delaying the certification process. The board was to have met next Wednesday to certify results, but that meeting will now take place on Friday, June 17, start time TBA.

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Cobb absentee ballot counting may last until Friday

Cobb Elections said Wednesday afternoon that an estimated 90,000 absentee ballots are still being counted, leaving a number of close races in East Cobb and around the county still in question.cobb advance voting, Cobb voter registration deadline, Walton and Dickerson PTSA candidates forum

County spokesman Ross Cavitt said all results for the moment (available by clicking here) reflect in-person early voting and Tuesday’s primary voting figures at precincts.

Here’s what else he said:

“But the majority of the absentee ballots either mailed in or dropped off remain to be tallied. Work on sending in results from 70,000+ of those absentee ballots is ongoing and could continue through Friday.”

So it may not be until later in the week that we know who will be in the Republican runoff for District 2 of the Cobb Board of Commissioners. For the moment, Fitz Johnson leads a three-man field with 36 percent of the vote, while Andy Smith has 32 percent and Kevin Nicholas 31 percent.

A total of 583 votes separates them, and all that is certain is that the top two finishers will meet in a runoff in August.

An early check of the 39 precincts shows that Johnson, a retired Army officer and business owner, won seven precincts in East Cobb, while winning all but one in his home base of Cumberland-Vinings (marked in blue).

Smith and Nicholas, both from East Cobb, won precincts marked in light green and dark green, respectively. Click here to hover over precinct totals.

Another close race in East Cobb awaiting absentee ballot totals is the Democratic primary in State House 46.

Caroline Holko was leading Shirley Ritchie by 278 votes in a district that includes 12 precincts in Northeast Cobb and four in Cherokee County. As of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, only 50 percent of those precincts have reported, with absentee ballots also to be counted.

That is the only contested legislative race in East Cobb.

As we noted late last night, Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce and incumbent Cobb school board member David Banks were leading their GOP primaries without the need for a runoff.

So was Julia Hurtado, a Democrat in a two-way race for Post 5 and who had 58 percent of the vote.

Earlier today it looked as though Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff may not win that primary without a runoff, as he hovered around 48 percent of the vote.

With 81 percent of the in-person vote counted, Ossoff had 49 percent of the vote late Wednesday afternoon, but absentee ballots statewide have not all been counted.

The Democratic primary for Cobb Sheriff also appears headed for a runoff, with Craig Owens collecting 47 percent over Greg Gilstrap (30 percent) and East Cobb resident Jimmy Herndon (25 percent).

In other Cobb elections of note, Reuben Green, Chief Judge of the Cobb Superior Court, appears to have lost his re-election bid to attorney Angela Brown, who led 55-44 percent.

A runoff for an open seat on the Superior Court bench is shaping up between Jason Marbutt and Greg Shenton, while Cobb Magistrate Judge Kellie Hill was leading in a race for another open seat with 61 percent of the vote against Daniele Johnson.

A State Court judge runoff will take place in August between Trina Griffiths and Diana Simmons, also for an open seat.

All Cobb elections results will be updated at this link.

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Handel cruises in GOP primary for 6th District Congress

There will be a rematch in the 6th Congressional District election in November.

Former Congresswoman Karen Handel easily won the Republican primary Tuesday night against four other candidates, getting 73 percent of the vote.

Karen Handel concedes, 6th Congressional District
Former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel

That’s with 135 of the 140 precincts reporting in the district, which stretches from East Cobb to North Fulton and north and central DeKalb.

Handel received 21,287 votes to 4,525 votes for her nearest competitor, former Atlanta Falcons running back Joe Profit (full results here).

She won all 51 precincts in East Cobb, tallying 8,576 votes, or 68 percent.

Handel will be facing U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, a Democrat who was unopposed Tuesday. Two years ago, McBath unseated Handel to become the first Democrat to represent the 6th in 40 years.

After thanking her supporters, Handel said Wednesday that “Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Michael Bloomberg will be back to pour in millions to protect the investment they’ve made in Lucy McBath. GA-6 deserves serious, proven leadership in these difficult times, and I look forward to taking on Lucy McBath and her do-nothing record.”

McBath’s campaign sent out several messages Wednesday morning, including a response to a Handel comment that during her time as Georgia Secretary of State, Georgia was “a model for voter integrity.”

Said McBath: “I have heard from numerous constituents who have applied for a ballot and never received it, who were stuck in lines for over two hours today in the rain, and many more who never were able to vote. For Karen Handel to cite this as a model for voter integrity is despicable.”

In 2018, McBath prevailed by fewer than 3,000 votes in one of the key races that swung control of the U.S. House to Democrats. It’s considered another bellwether campaign in the fall.

In the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, former 6th Congressional District candidate Jon Ossoff appeared headed for a runoff.

With 77 percent of precincts reporting statewide, he had 48.8 percent of the vote to 14 percent for former Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson and 12 percent for former lieutenant governor candidate Sarah Riggs Amico.

They’re vying to compete in November against incumbent Republican David Perdue, who was unopposed.

In a special election in 2017, Ossoff held a commanding lead in a jungle primary for 6th District Congress. But he was forced into a runoff, where Handel defeated him.

Georgia’s other senator, Kelly Loeffler, will be involved in a jungle primary in November. A Republican, she was appointed in January to succeed Johnny Isakson.

The winner in the fall will fill out the last two years of Isakson’s term.

In the Georgia Democratic presidential primary, former vice president Joe Biden got 83 percent, although he wrapped up the nomination several weeks ago.

President Donald Trump was the only Republican on the statewide ballot.

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East Cobb Election Update: Boyce, Banks lead in GOP primaries

East Cobb Election Update
From left, Cobb Commission chairman Mike Boyce, Cobb school board member David Banks and Cobb commission candidate Fitz Johnson.

UPDATED, 12:30 AM:

Cobb commission chairman Mike Boyce has a big lead in the Republican nomination Tuesday, earning 67 percent of the vote with 79 percent of the precincts reporting.

Three-term incumbent David Banks also appeared headed for the GOP nomination for Post 5 on the Cobb Board of Education with 55 percent of the vote against two challengers and 85 percent of precincts reporting.

In the Democratic primary for Post 5, physical therapist Julia Hurtado led Lassiter PTSA co-president Tammy Andress 58-42 percent with 85 percent of precincts reporting.

The GOP primary for District 2 on the Cobb Board of Commissioners appears headed to a runoff.

Fitz Johnson has 44 percent of the vote with 75 percent of precincts reporting, while Andy Smith and Kevin Nicholas had 28 and 27 percent respectively.

In the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, former Congresswoman Karen Handel got 68 percent of the vote against four other candidates in polling that stretched from East Cobb to North Fulton to Central DeKalb.

 

Election night reporting

UPDATED, 11:35 P.M.:

We’re still waiting for election-day precinct totals to come in, and not much has changed in the races noted earlier.

There are some local judicial races that are being contested, including one involving Chief Judge Reuben Green of the Cobb Superior Court. He’s trailing early in his non-partisan race against veteran attorney Angela Brown, 61-39 percent.

UPDATED, 10:30 P.M.:

Some initial results from the 6th DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL GOP primary show former Congresswoman Karen Handel with a big, but early lead, over four other candidates. She has 64 percent of the vote (no precincts yet), and former Atlanta Falcons running back Joe Profit has 24 percent.

In the U.S. SENATE DEMOCRATIC primary, former 6th District Congressional candidate Jon Ossoff has 46 percent, former lieutenant governor candidate Sarah Riggs Amico has 14 percent, and former Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson has 12 percent. Again, no precints reporting.

In the STATE HOUSE DISTRICT 46 DEMOCRATIC primary, former Cobb Commission candidate Caroline Holko leads Shirley Ritchie 54-46 percent in early result.

East Cobb Election Update
The precinct at Eastside Baptist Church was one of 19 in Cobb County ordered to stay open until 8 p.m. Tuesday due to problems with voting machines (ECN photo).

UPDATED, 9:40 P.M.:

Incumbent COBB COMMISSION CHAIRMAN Mike Boyce has 63 percent of the vote in initial returns in the GOP primary, Larry Savage 29 percent, Ricci Mason 8 percent. No precincts reporting yet; those are likely early voting figures.

COBB COMMISSION DISTRICT 2, GOP: Kevin Nicholas 39 percent, Andy Smith 31 percent and Fitz Johnson 30 percent.

COBB SCHOOL BOARD POST 5, GOP: Incumbent David Banks 60 percent, Shelley O’Malley 22 percent, Matt Harper 17 percent.

COBB SCHOOL BOARD POST 5, DEMOCRAT: Julia Hurtado 56 percent, Tammy Andress 44 percent.

COBB SHERIFF, DEMOCRAT: Craig Owens 49 percent, Greg Gilstrap 28 percent, Jimmy Herndon 22 percent.

Again, all of these no precincts reporting yet.

ORIGINAL REPORT, POSTED AT 7:59 P.M.:

The polls closed at 7 p.m. in all but 19 precincts in Cobb County, and what’s expected to be a long wait for results in today’s Georgia primaries is underway.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, results won’t be available until after 10:10 p.m., when the last polling precinct in the state that was still open was scheduled to close.

In East Cobb, voters were choosing primary candidates in several closely watched races, including the Republican primary for District 2 on the Cobb Board of Commissioners and Republican and Democratic candidates for Post 5 on the Cobb Board of Education.

They joined other Cobb voters in casting ballots in a contested Republican primary for chairman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners, a contested Democratic Party primary for Cobb Sheriff and several county judgeships and court clerk positions.

East Cobb voters also were choosing a Republican Party nominee for the 6th Congressional District seat.

There is one contested Georgia House primary in East Cobb, between two Democrats in District 46.

Other contested races on the ballot include the Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat, and several Cobb Superior Court judgeships.

Although its a fait accompli, Democratic voters in Georgia finally will get to have their party presidential preference primary, delayed from March due to COVID-19.

Since then, former vice president Joe Biden easily wrapped up the nomination, and he is one of a dozen names on a Georgia ballot finalized months ago.

The above link from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office will contain all the results from those and other races that may take some time to determine. You can customize it by race, and by federal, state and local results.

Due to a very high number of absentee ballots that must be counted, as well as delays at some precincts Tuesday due to social distancing and technical problems with new voting machines, some races may not be settled for days.

Typically early voting numbers are tallied first, followed by same-day voting results and then absentee figures.

We’ll also be sending out a special election newsletter some time on Wednesday with the latest election results. If you’re not a subscriber, please click this link to have it delivered to your inbox.

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BREAKING NEWS: 19 Cobb precincts staying open until 8 p.m.

Cobb precincts staying open late
Some technical issues affected voting at Murdock ES Tuesday morning, but lines were scant by the afternoon. (ECN photo)

Due to technical issues that resulted in a late start to primary voting, 19 precincts in Cobb County will be staying open an hour later Tuesday.

County government spokesman Ross Cavitt said Cobb is abiding by a local court order to keep precincts open where technical and other issues have occurred.

The polls will remain open until 8 p.m. at the following precincts in East Cobb:

  • Addison 01 (Legacy Church, 1040 Blackwell Road)
  • Bells Ferry 04 (Shiloh Hills Baptist Church, 75 Hawkins Store Road)
  • Eastside 02 (Eastside Baptist Church, 2450 Lower Roswell Road)
  • Elizabeth 03 (Piedmont Road Church of Christ, 1630 Piedmont Road)
  • Sewell Mill 03 (Grace Marietta Church, 675 Holt Road)
  • Sope Creek 02 (Sope Creek Elementary School, 3320 Paper Mill Road).

If you’re in line at any of those precincts by 8 p.m., you will be allowed to vote. Here’s the rest of the list.

All other precincts close at 7 p.m.

The Cobb order, requested by Cobb Elections officials, was signed by Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert D. Leonard, and was done so due to “significant voting machine complications” at the affected precincts.

Tuesday’s primary is delayed from May 19 due to COVID-19, and this is the first election with new electronic voting machines.

Long lines also were projected because of a lack of poll workers stemming from the virus and social distancing and sanitizing measures, as well as a lengthy ballot for most voters.

More than 80,000 Cobb voters have cast absentee ballots, and more than 11,000 people took place in in-person early voting.

Major voting problems have been underway most of the day in Fulton, Gwinnett and DeKalb counties.

All precincts in Fulton are open until 9 p.m., and Secretary of State Brad Raffensparger is investigating problems there and in DeKalb County. Elected officials in those counties have blamed the state for problems with the new voting machines, but Raffensparger said local elections officials have had time to test them and to prepare for the unusual circumstances surrounding this election.

A total of 15 Gwinnett precincts with technical problems were open until 7:30 p.m..

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Cobb 2020 primary election guide: when, where, how to vote

Georgia runoff elections

Please follow East Cobb News coverage of the 2020 primaries by clicking this link.

On Tuesday Georgia’s delayed primary elections take place, after weeks of absentee balloting and early voting.

Voters who turn out at the polls at their designated precinct will be asked to choose one of three ballots: Democratic, Republican and non-partisan.

In East Cobb, voters will be choosing party nominees in a variety of federal, state and local offices, and judges in non-partisan races for state and local court positions.

Precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at all locations.

Because of social distancing guidelines and shortages of precinct workers due to COVID-19, lines are expected to be longer than usual.

Voters are encouraged to factor in longer times when they arrive at their precincts.

What’s on the ballot?

East Cobb voters have several contested primaries in partisan races, including Republican primaries for Cobb Commission Chairman and Cobb Commission District 2, as well as Democratic and Republican primaries for Cobb school board Post 5.

There’s also a Republican primary for the 6th Congressional District race and a Democratic primary for State House District 46.

In countywide races, contested primaries include Democrats in the Cobb Sheriff’s race and Democrats and Republicans for Superior Court Clerk. Non-partisan races are taking place for three seats on Cobb Superior Court and one on Cobb State Court.

There’s a large field of Democrats pursuing their party’s nomination to face Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. David Perdue in November.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to succeed the retired Johnny Isakson, won’t be on the primary ballot. The election to determine who fills the final two years of Isakson’s term will be decided in a jungle primary in November, with candidates of both parties. She’s one of them, along with Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

The Democratic presidential primary also is scheduled Tuesday, and like the local and state primaries has been delayed by COVID-19 closures. Former vice president Joe Biden wrapped up the party nomination earlier this week in terms of needed delegates.

He’ll be listed as one of a dozen candidates on the Democratic ballot, most of whom dropped out not long after the primaries began in February.

Candidate profiles and related information for local races can be found at the East Cobb News 2020 Elections Guide resource page.

Here are the sample ballots from Cobb Elections:

These ballots are countywide composites and contain candidates who may not appear on your actual ballot. You can download a precise sample ballot at the My Voter Page from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

If you choose a ballot from one of the major parties, you’ll also be asked questions that respective party leaders, either local or state, have formulated to gauge where their constituency stands on certain issues.

The respective party sample ballots include the questions that will appear on the ballot you’ll get at the polls.

Early voting concluded on Friday, including all this past week at the East Cobb Government Center. According to Cobb Elections, 1,699 people voted at the East Cobb venue, with 1,045 asking for Democratic ballots, 640 Republican and 14 non-partisan.

Across the county, 11,527 voters cast early in-person ballots: 8,122 Democratic, 3,317 Republican and 88 non-partisan.

Cobb Elections also issued 143,061 absentee ballots, and 80,164 have been returned: 41,702 Democratic, 36,139 Republican and 2,323 non-partisan.

More early voting figures can be found here.

Runoff elections would take place Aug. 11. That date also was delayed from its originally scheduled date of July 21.

Where and how to vote

Your voter registration card has the location of your voting precinct. If you are unsure of your precinct, Cobb Elections has them listed by precinct name and by venue name.

Earlier this year several precinct venues were changed, three of them in East Cobb: Dickerson, Dodgen and Marietta 6A.

Right before the primary, Cobb Elections announced that the venue for the Roswell 02 precinct was being switched from Mt. Zion United Methodist Church to the Episcopal Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, across the street at 1795 Johnson Ferry Road.

When you arrive at your polling station, you will be asked to fill out a form and show a government-approved photo ID.

Absentee ballots

If you received an absentee ballot and haven’t filled it out, you can do so on election day, as long as you deposit it at one of several designated drop boxes in the county, including the East Cobb Government Service Center (4400 Lower Roswell Road), by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

For more local voting-related information, please visit the Cobb Elections page.

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Candidate spotlight: David Banks, Cobb school board Post 5

Near the end of his third term on the Cobb school board, David Banks said he’s seeking another four years because “I just feel like there’s more to be done.”David Banks, Cobb school board candidate

A retired computer and technology consultant and business owner, Banks has lived in East Cobb for 50 years and has represented Post 5, which represents the Pope and Lassiter clusters, since 2009.

He said that kind of experience is vital during a time in which the Cobb County School District, the second-largest in Georgia with 112,000 students, is undergoing rapid change.

“It takes a few years to get acclimated to how the system works,” said Banks, who’s serving as the school board’s vice chairman this year.

(Banks does not have a campaign website; here’s his school board biography page.)

He ran unopposed four years ago, but Banks has drawn a crowd of opposition in both parties, including Matt Harper and Shelley O’Malley, whom he’ll be facing in next Tuesday’s Republican primary.

O’Malley has been openly critical of Banks (as have Democrats Tammy Andress and Julia Hurtado), saying that “I hope voters recognize that when an incumbent is being challenged by other people there ought to be a reason for that.”

Other Post 5 candidate profiles

To which Banks asks of the others on the ballot: “Why are you running?” He said from what he’s read and learned about his opponents, “it tells me nothing about what they want to do.”

In addition to some of his most impassioned topics—advancing STEM and virtual reality instruction in schools—Banks said he hasn’t heard those trying to unseat him discuss such items as the education SPLOST, which funds construction and maintenance projects.

Nor does he think they’ve said much about how they would address what could be an $80 million Cobb schools budget shortfall due to heavily reduced state funding from COVID-19.

(The board hasn’t yet adopted a fiscal year 2021 budget because the legislative session was disrupted before it finalized education funding.)

“Where’s the meat?” Banks asked about his opponents’ campaign platforms. “What have they proposed that I’m not already doing?”

As for what he would do with a fourth term, Banks said more of the same: Advance more technological learning opportunities for students at every possible level, and broaden Capstone and AP curriculum.

He said he’s proud that more Cobb elementary schools are becoming STEM-certified. He wants to see more virtual reality and robotics options for students at the younger grade levels as well.

Emerging virtual reality fields “can open up a lot of doors for young people,” Banks said. “We’re just getting started with this.”

Among his initiatives would be to set up a test and demonstrate a proof of concept that could be expanded across the district.

Andress and Hurtado have advocated that the Cobb school district hire a chief equity officer to address inequities including race and ethnicity and special needs, but Banks said he is opposed to that (as are Harper and O’Malley).

“We have one of the best special ed programs in the state,” said Banks, who thinks the notion of an equity officer is “a buzzword, something the Democrat party uses a lot. But it doesn’t work.

“What’s it going to accomplish that we’re not doing already?”

He’s also against changing or even revisiting the Cobb schools senior property tax exemption (which he takes), an issue that also has come down along partisan lines.

Democrats, he said, “actually want to get rid of it,” which would require a change in state legislation. “Which representative or senator [in the Cobb delegation] is going to commit political suicide?”

A legislative idea he’s pushed before, and is advocating again in times of economic distress, is a 10-year local education sales tax (LEST), which would be one penny on the dollar to help fund Cobb schools operations.

Banks floated a measure during the recession, and it went nowhere. He says now, as he did several years ago, it would raise more than enough money ($150 million by his count) to overcome budget deficits, and return 30 percent of that funding to taxpayers in the form of a millage rate reduction.

“We need another source of income,” Banks said, admitting “it’s not easy to change a constitutional amendment. But if you can it frame right, and it shows the public benefit of having it, it’s a win-win.”

Should Cobb schools have to make dramatic cuts in teaching positions due to a reduced budget, Banks advocates laying off high school and middle school teachers in elective subjects, then rehiring them as paraprofessionals and have them teach students at multiple schools via teleconferencing.

“I might be an older person,” Banks said, referring to an opponent’s mention of his age, “but I try to find what’s coming and visualize what’s not even there now.”

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Cobb Commission candidates oppose sex shop in East Cobb

East Cobb sex shop

Kevin Nicholas, one of three Republicans running in next week’s primary for District 2 on the Cobb Board of Commissioners, says he’s opposed to a possible sex shop in East Cobb.

In a note written in response to organizers of an online petition against what they claim will be an adult retail store on Johnson Ferry Road, Nicholas said “this is not the business we want in our family-based community.”

The note was sent to Amy White, who’s leading a change.org campaign against what’s being planned at 1290 Johnson Ferry Road, in a former mattress store building.

A business license issued by Cobb County in March states it’s for a clothing store; the individual listed in state incorporation documents for 1290 Clothing Co. LLC is Michael Morrison, who owns the Tokyo Valentino adult retail store chain in metro Atlanta.

Retiring District 2 commissioner Bob Ott has said that since rezoning isn’t required, the county has little recourse as long as the new business meets code requirements. The general commercial zoning status of the land dates back to the 1970s.

Ott said he also is against an adult store coming to the community, and reminded citizens that opposition to a We Buy Gold store several years ago prompted it to close, citing a lack of business.

Nicholas, who’s running to succeed Ott, said he’s “been in lengthy discussion with many neighbors about this and what we need to do” and at the very least thinks the county should review the business license application.

Some opponents of an adult store have claimed that Morrison has misrepresented his business aims as well as his own identity and want the business license invalidated.

Morrison, who’s been ordered to jail for a contempt citation in Brookhaven and is suing the city of Atlanta in legal battles over his businesses in those municipalities, has said he isn’t sure what the East Cobb store will end up being (There’s a Tokyo Valentino store on Marietta, on Cobb Parkway near the Big Chicken).

Nicholas, an East Cobb resident, said he advocates a “check list” for the county that would require applicants to provide more details on a business license application, a review of the county code and “to make amendments that fit the community while preserving good business growth. I reject the notion that there is nothing that can be done.”

East Cobb News contacted the other Republicans in the District 2 race. Andy Smith, who also lives in East Cobb and was Ott’s appointee to the Cobb Planning Commission, referred East Cobb News to Ott’s statement issued on Memorial Day with no additional comment.

UPDATE: On Wednesday Smith issued a videotaped message and a written statement which reads in part:

“The application for this business has been gone through with a fine-tooth comb and found to comply with existing code; this doesn’t surprise me because of the battalion of very well-paid lawyers the applicant has on staff. So let’s put that myth to bed.

“Cobb has had a long history of having one of the strongest adult industry codes and has been the model for most if not all of metro Atlanta. So, as with all things, it is time to look at the current code and update it, and I can assure you that is being done. I am well aware of the research and effort being put forth firsthand, and the all-hands-on deck approach that’s ongoing. Just like the duck swimming across the lake, all looks calm on the surface but we are paddling with all our might underneath. This is just another example of where having a commissioner who understands the code and how to strengthen and enforce it really matters. I have the experience and knowledge to preserve our community and don’t think for one minute I’m not working like that duck to cross the lake.”

 

East Cobb News also has left a message with Fitz Johnson seeking comment.

UPDATE: Here’s what Johnson sent us Wednesday morning:

“My wife and I are appalled at the idea of a sex shop going into our neighborhood. I am firmly opposed if this shop were to open in the old Matress Firm store or anywhere. I will leave no stone unturned as I investigate my powers under the U.S. Constitution to make this right. 

“It is unfortunate we are put in this position by law, but it doesn’t mean we can’t educate ourselves, organize as a community, and fight to keep this from happening. I am against having this type of establishment in our neighborhoods so close to schools and churches. If elected, I will do everything within my U.S. Constitutional powers to discourage these types of establishments.

“We have to be mindful that commissioners do not have the authority under the U.S. Constitution to alter existing zoning or add stipulations. Again I will encourage our citizens and neighbors to organize, and work together to stop this from happening. I absolutely will join in and lend my voice to that cause.”

ORIGINAL STORY CONTINUES:

Dan White, another online campaigner against an adult store, contacted East Cobb News Monday to note that more than 2,700 people have signed a petition.

He also took exception to comments in an East Cobb News commentary over the weekend from citizens imploring opponents to lighten up about a possible adult store. A few noted that for those who’d want to patronize such a store, it would be convenient to have it nearby.

“Having a dump close by would be convenient as well but not in the middle of our community,” he said. “This business will affect crime, the statistics that retail companies use to choose their expansion opportunities and property value.”

White also noted that while Ott has “served this community fairly well over his tenure,” his retirement “makes doing nothing but saying that there is a law from 1975 an easy way out.

“Tell him it’s not OK to give up.”

A signer of the change.org petition said “if this store opens, I’m voting against all my local incumbents who didn’t stop it.”

 

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Every Sunday we round up the week’s top headlines and preview the upcoming week in the East Cobb News Digest. Click here to sign up, and you’re good to go!

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