GA primary election: Stunning results in Georgia, Chatham County elections

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A small group of voters enter the Progressive Recreation Center in Garden City Georgia to cast their ballots on May 24, 2022.
A small group of voters enter the Progressive Recreation Center in Garden City Georgia to cast their ballots on May 24, 2022.

1:46 a.m., May 25

Georgia Republican voters broadly rejected candidates on the "Trump ticket" in Tuesday's primary, with Trump-endorsed candidates David Perdue (governor), Jody Hice (secretary of state), John Gordon (attorney general) and Patrick Witt (Insurance commissioner) all losing. The lone statewide Trump candidate to survive is Burt Jones, a candidate for lieutenant governor - and he may need a runoff to advance. Jones had 50.2% of the vote in the four-way race with 93% of precincts reporting. Should he fall below the 50% threshold, he will face Butch Miller in a runoff.

12:55 a.m., May 25:

With the Savannah-Chatham County School Board president race too close to call, Savannah Morning News confirmed with Elections Supervisor Billy Wooten that all votes are in and accounted for, but there's a small glitch. One of the early vote memory cards is unreadable, according to Wooten, and a manual count of approximately 4,000 votes will be administered Wednesday morning along with the counting of 71 provisional ballots and the adjudication of absentee ballots. Wooten said that the Board of Elections has spoken with the Georgia Secretary of State's office and has confirmed how to proceed.

7 p.m., May 24:

Polls are closed across Georgia for the Primary and nonpartisan General Election.

The conclusion of voting makes official wins for unopposed candidates, such as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams and Congressmen Rick Allen (R-Augusta) and Buddy Carter (R-Savannah).

The first results came into the Georgia Secretary of State’s office at approximately 7:20 p.m. Georgia has 159 counties, all of which report results individually. Approximately 57,000 of a project 4 million votes had been reported as of 7:45 p.m.

The USA TODAY Georgia newspapers will post local and state results throughout the night.

LIVE ELECTION RESULTS: Latest results from May 24 primary and nonpartisan elections

Supervisor: Chatham's Election Day problems stemmed mostly from equipment, electrical issues

What to know: The May 24 Georgia primary races will shape the midterm election ballot

The Trump effect: Trump is backing 7 Georgia GOP primary challengers. Will his influence swing the election?

A Twitter List by SavannahNow

7:00 p.m. | Election Day comes to an end

As of 7 p.m., polls around Chatham County were officially closed, marking the end of Election Day.

By law, voters who are in line by 7 p.m. are allowed to stay in line until they cast a ballot. The precinct won’t close until the last person in line has voted.

Now, the precincts will begin to report their vote tallies to the Board of Elections for counting, a process that typically extends into the night, or sometimes, in the case of the November 2020 election, much longer. The 2020 election was an anomaly: Usually, the winners are known the night of an election, or in the early morning hours of the next day.

As results come in, Savannah Morning News will keep track of the winners, and post the results as they become available.

More: Chatham's Election Day problems stemmed mostly from equipment, electrical issues: Supervisor

5:30 p.m. | Deputies checking in at polling locations

At 5 p.m., Chatham County Sheriff’s Deputy Sharleen Simmons parked her marked SUV on East 37th Street and walked across the road to Precinct 2-05, Holy Spirit Lutheran Church.

She wasn’t there to cast a ballot. She took care of that during the early voting period. She was driving around to precincts across the county for work. On election day, sheriff’s deputies stop by polling places.

She walked into the church’s fellowship hall and asked the poll workers how their day was going, and if they ran into any issues. Simmons’ visit was quick. The poll workers waved her out, and she was on to the next precinct.

By 5 p.m., 280 ballots had been cast at the precinct. Poll workers said they hadn’t run into any serious issues during the day, just a paper jam in the scanner here and there.

4:30 p.m. | The Trump effect plays out today in Georgia

Former president Donald Trump’s endorsement gets put to the test today in Georgia.

While polling showed Gov. Brian Kemp well ahead of Trump’s pick, former senator David Perdue, in the gubernatorial contest, the race to potentially unseat Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is more heated. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, a staunch critic of the 2020 election results, has the backing of Trump and polling shows a close race.

Poll workers assist voters during the primary election on Tuesday May 24, 2022 at the Coastal Cathedral Church of God in Savannah, Georgia.
Poll workers assist voters during the primary election on Tuesday May 24, 2022 at the Coastal Cathedral Church of God in Savannah, Georgia.

4:00 p.m. | DJ 'Lady Supreme' spins records for voters waiting in line

Voters at WW Law Community Center on the eastside were accompanied to the polls with the sounds of thumping bass and melodic tunes.

DJ “Lady Supreme” was on hand — an allowed 150 feet from the precinct entrance — to play music and provide refreshments to voters all day Tuesday. She was hired by the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan organization aimed at increasing access to elections for marginalized communities in Georgia.

Lady Supreme was there with Carefree Black Girls, a local company that puts on “community-minded” events for people to come together and have fun.

The goal on Tuesday, she said, was to provide a fun atmosphere for people waiting in line at the polls.

“People come by with the kids, they stop and dance. It’s just entertainment and if you can do that, it might not be so bad,” the DJ said.

The New Georgia Project also set up a tent at Savannah Coffee Roasters for voters at the Savannah Civic Center precinct, and has been playing music for early voters the past three weeks.

While lines never reached the length voters have seen in past Georgia elections this year, the music was intended to help long wait times go more smoothly.

Shequita Bolden, left, and DJ Lady Supreme at the WW Law Community Center voting precinct, on behalf of the New Georgia Project, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
Shequita Bolden, left, and DJ Lady Supreme at the WW Law Community Center voting precinct, on behalf of the New Georgia Project, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

3:32 p.m. Poll does the job to 'feel ... worthy'

Alvin Doty has been a poll worker for 15 years. He took the job to make extra money, and most recently to get out of the house after his wife died.

On a deeper level, Doty feels a calling to election work.

“It helps you feel like you’re worthy,” Doty said from Thunderbolt town hall, precinct 3-12.

While he said early voting was “extremely high” for the small riverfront town to Savannah’s east, in-person turnout has been a bit higher than recent years.

Doty said he believes people got used to absentee and early voting during the pandemic, but something bigger is driving people to the polls.

“The country is so divided,” Doty said. “And so, people want to make their voice heard.”

2:45 p.m. | Tybee poll workers surprised by turnout

The scene at Tybee Island's sole voting precinct was one of familiarity and ease.

By 1:30 p.m., 270 people had voted at the Tybee YMCA. Poll workers said they were told to expect low participation because of a high volume of early voting, but they had been surprised at the turnout on Tuesday.

For retirees Bill and Kris Garbett, it wasn’t worth it to vote early since they’d have to drive 20 minutes to the closest early voting location.

The couple, who’s lived in Tybee 27 years, mingled with friends and neighbors after casting their ballots in the Republican primary.

Bill Garbett said his main disappointment in this year's primary were the candidates for U.S. Senate, including former UGA football player Herschel Walker and Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black.

“It's embarrassing that they would actually think that these people are responsible candidates for public office,” Garbett said.

Voters at the polls inside Coastal Cathedral Church Church of God in Savannah, cast their ballots on Tuesday May 24, 2022 during the Georgia primary.
Voters at the polls inside Coastal Cathedral Church Church of God in Savannah, cast their ballots on Tuesday May 24, 2022 during the Georgia primary.

1:59 p.m. | Some voters caught off-guard by number of ballot questions

Several voters were surprised by a litany of questions printed on their partisan ballots.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties included several questions about potential policy and incentive packages to voters, including queries about the border wall with Mexico and forgiving college student debt.

Alesea White was among those caught off-guard by the questions. The Democrats’ interest in voters’ opinions on the legalization of marijuana and universal, free access to pre-K for toddlers were among the topics that most resonated with her. Voters filling out a Democratic ballot were asked nine questions.

At W.W. Law Community Center, precinct 2-02, poll workers said they’d been walking voters through which ballot they want.

Joe Hustzy, a Wilmington Island resident, said the issues most important to him were inflation and immigration, both topics which the Republican party addressed in their list of eight questions.

The parties use the questions as a way to survey voters, which will aid in establishing policy and messaging in the upcoming General Election in November.

Republicans focused on issues of annexation in Atlanta — specifically referencing Buckhead’s desire to leave the capital city — and the topic of transgender athletes in school sports.

Democrats were surveyed about access to clean energy alternatives and whether to expand Medicaid and Medicare.

Those who receive a nonpartisan ballot are asked no questions.

1:26 p.m. | Some voters sent to wrong polling location

Some folks who came to the voting poll at the Georgia Tech Savannah Campus were surprised to learn they were at the wrong place.

Some residents from the 7-11 district had the wrong location printed on their voter registration card. They were then sent to the Savannah Fire Station on Highlands Blvd.

“It was just a small error,” said poll Manager Bonnie Foster. “I’m not sure whose fault it was, but we got them sent to the right place.”

Voters cast their ballots during the primary on Tuesday May 24, 2022 at Coastal Cathedral Church of God in Savannah, Georgia.
Voters cast their ballots during the primary on Tuesday May 24, 2022 at Coastal Cathedral Church of God in Savannah, Georgia.

12:58 p.m. | Election day feels like reunion at Wheaton Street polling place

Election Day is somewhat of a reunion for the poll workers at River Pointe Leasing Office, a Housing Authority of Savannah property, on Wheaton Street.

Connie Roundtree has worked elections on the Eastside for 43 years, but here she now serves as the manager for precinct 2-02.

Her coworkers have worked with her for nearly 20 years each, and the voters they welcome are familiar, too.

“Most of this precinct is the same old faces,” Roundtree said with a smile.

Like most precincts on Savannah’s eastside, turnout has been comparable with past elections, with absentee and early voting accounting for many of the ballots to be counted tonight.

12:30 p.m. | Putting out small fires, getting cussed at by voters

Around 11:30 a.m., over at the Board of Elections headquarters, Elections Supervisor Billy Wooten was still putting out small fires, trying to keep them from spreading.

Reports of some voting machines not holding charge were coming in earlier in the morning. Wooten says in the past, this error happened because of faulty electrical outlets inside polling places, and is typically resolved by moving machines to other outlets.

On election day, voting machine technicians field reports of equipment errors throughout the county, going from precinct to precinct solving issues.

“There’s always going to be ‘this doesn’t work’ and ‘that doesn’t work.’ It’s part of it. We fix it, and we move ahead,” Wooten said.

Wooten said he stopped by Precinct 8-09, The Moses Jackson Center, where there was an issue with a piece of equipment called an encoder. It stalled voting earlier in the day, and a few voters had to come back to the polls after.

“I spoke to them, and apologized for them not being able to vote the first time. They were very gracious, and said they understood how things happen, and they cast a vote,” Wooten said.

Wooten said primaries are generally the most complicated kinds of elections. He said one voter chose to vote on a non-partisan ballot, cast the ballot and put the paper receipt into the scanner, only to then tell elections workers that he meant to cast a Republican ballot.

“He cussed me out. He voted evidently on a non-partisan ballot,” Wooten said. “We told him, 'No, that’s not the way it works.' He cussed me from here to there. It’s depressing, really.”

Voters cast their ballots at the polling precinct located inside Coastal Cathedral Church of God in Savannah, Georgia on Tuesday May 24, 2022.
Voters cast their ballots at the polling precinct located inside Coastal Cathedral Church of God in Savannah, Georgia on Tuesday May 24, 2022.

12:00 p.m. | Poll worker talks about Bruno

At Precinct 1-05, the Jewish Educational Alliance, poll manager Jeannette Cooper was missing a friend.

In 2019, when Georgia rolled out the Dominion voting system, Cooper and her poll workers came to love an especially bulky scanner. Larger than the others, it was unique. They gave him the nickname "Bruno."

But on Tuesday, Bruno wasn't the one providing a paper audit for voters. It was another scanner, of regular size, whom Jeannette has named "Dummy."

"He was big and funky. He was bigger than that one. But that one's still standing," Cooper said. "He's just not our Bruno."

Aside from that, things were ship shape at the JEA. Cooper said there hadn't been any issues to speak of earlier in the day. Despite not being Bruno, the new scanner was working fine.

11:29 a.m. | Inflation could be a factor in voting today

A recent surge in inflation might factor into decisions made today at the polls. But a Georgia Southern economics professor warned that politicians have less influence over rising prices than voters might realize.

Savannah-based economist Michael Toma warned voters to be wary of political rhetoric as much of the current crisis is due to a supply side shortage that is beyond the control of elected officials. However, he said elected officials can enact policies to reduce inflation’s impact.

More: Inflation is at a 40-year high. What that means for candidates, voters in Georgia's primary election

Voters leave the polling location at Coastal Cathedral Church pf God in Savannah after casting their ballots on Tuesday May 24, 2022 in the Georgia primary.
Voters leave the polling location at Coastal Cathedral Church pf God in Savannah after casting their ballots on Tuesday May 24, 2022 in the Georgia primary.

11:00 a.m.| Pooler voter casting ballot for Kemp

Jack and Kyong Frost got up early Tuesday to cast their vote at the Pooler Recreation Center.

Jack Frost admitted he is not well-versed on the local government races because he and his wife moved to Pooler a year ago, but said he looks forward to preserving the Republican seat in the governor’s race.

“I’m a Republican conservative,” said Jack Frost. “I like the job (incumbent Gov. Brian) Kemp has done, so that’s the way I’m going.”

More: 'He's not Jesus': Trump picked sides in the Georgia governor's race. His candidate is struggling.

10:30 a.m. | Poll worker: Long ballot adding to wait times

Precincts 2-07 and 3-15 at the Eli Whitney School may have only seen 22 voters by 9:45 a.m., but poll worker Veronica Cook said that's excellent turnout for their small, consolidated pair of districts.

"And we have a lot of people who do absentee," Cook said. "Lots and lots of absentee."

She said the unusually large number of races has slowed the voting process down a bit.

"We’ve got a really long ballot today," the poll worker of 15 years said. "Some people have to wait about 10 minutes."

Sample ballots posted at the precinct are two pages long, with more than 30 elections and party-line questions included.

Voters in Precinct 1-01, First Presbyterian Church, cast ballots in the May 24 primary.
Voters in Precinct 1-01, First Presbyterian Church, cast ballots in the May 24 primary.

9:57 a.m. | Perceived low turnout possible result of heavy early voting

There were a few technical issues early in the morning at Wilmington Island Presbyterian Church, precinct 4-8, but all were solved quickly, said poll manager Roxy Hogan.

“When I say paper jams,” Hogan explained, “that’s normal.”

Wilmington Island resident Valerie Hustzy found the process of casting her ballot “easy, simple and very straightforward.”

Hustzy and her husband, Joe, have been voting at the church for more than 20 years. She said this year’s turnout — 120 people by 9:15 a.m. — seemed “very low.”

Hogan said she wasn’t sure if turnout really was low, or if island residents took advantage of early voting, which was held at the library on Wilmington Island.

9:31 a.m.| Education a key issue for Pooler voter

Nearly 150 people had visited West Chatham Baptist Church in Pooler by about 9 a.m. to cast their votes. A paper jam led to delays in voting early, but lines were moving steadily soon afterward.

Maribeth Lindler, who has lived in Pooler for 30 years, said she was excited to vote for local school board elections, saying she is hopeful to see teachers' pay increase and more resources provided for public schools.

“I want to see enough money for those schools so they can build bigger schools,” said Lindler. “The last thing we want to do is put them out in portables. We don’t want them to feel left out from the other kids in the school. I think teachers need higher salaries, too.”

Poll manager John Leffler looks on as voters in Precinct 1-01, First Presbyterian Church cast ballots in the May 24 primary.
Poll manager John Leffler looks on as voters in Precinct 1-01, First Presbyterian Church cast ballots in the May 24 primary.

9:19 a.m.| Voting steady at large Chatham County precinct

At Precinct 1-01, First Presbyterian, one of the largest precincts in Chatham County, approximately 80 voters had cast ballots by 9 a.m.

The church, which also hosts a daycare program, was packed with voters coming in and out, as well as small children watching curiously.

Tracy Less explained why there were so many people at day care to the children she was watching.

"They're gonna go vote!" She told three children as she navigated the stroller down the Chatham Cresent sidewalk.

Inside, poll manager John Leffler, a seven-year election veteran, said no issues had popped up yet.

"It's been steady. We opened right on time. We were ready 15 minutes early. We have a good crew here, Leffler said. "We've had 20% of our voters vote absentee."

He says he's been keeping track of the paper ballot count on the scanner and comparing it the number of voters that have come through to make sure the numbers line up. So far, they have.

"Long story short: Voting is steady. I have great crew," Leffler said.

9:10 a.m.| Voter reverses direction upon seeing a sign announcing election day

Jacob Knudsen was driving on Hwy. 80 when he saw the signs declaring it election day outside his voting precinct.

“I pulled a u-turn and went right back around home so I (could) get my registration card,” Knudsen said.

He had spent the weekend researching candidates.

“This isn't my first time (voting), but this is my first time as, you know, an actual adult voting and realizing that my choices affect the voting process,” Knudsen said.

He voted inside Lighthouse Baptist Church on Talahi Island, where it was business as usual.

By 9 a.m., nearly 75 people had cast their votes in the primary elections, which a poll manager said was on par with recent years.

Voters cast ballots at the Precinct 1-05, the Jewish Educational Alliance on Tuesday.
Voters cast ballots at the Precinct 1-05, the Jewish Educational Alliance on Tuesday.

8:40 a.m.| Voting steady in Savannah's Eastside

On Savannah's Eastside, a steady stream of voters filtered into Christ Community Church on East Gwinnett Street. About 10 people were casting their votes at 8:15 a.m., with the process running smoothly.

Kelsey Williams walked from her home in Gordonston, coffee cup in hand, to vote this morning. She said the process went well, but she was confused after deciding to switch the primary she voted in after receiving an absentee ballot. "There were no instructions on how to switch," she said.

Her husband ran home to grab their absentee ballots before they were able to switch the primary they voted in. "So it all worked out," she said.

8:10 a.m.| On first election as supervisor, Wooten hands on in fixing issues

Tuesday marked Board of Elections Supervisor Billy Wooten’s first election day at the helm. Initially, he was hired as an interim after the retirement of longtime Chatham BOE Supervisor Russell Bridges before he permanently won the position.

But today, he’s in charge. And he’s keeping calm under pressure.

Wooten decided he would check out an issue at Central Church of Christ issue personally, since its Stephenson address wasn’t far from BOE headquarters at 1117 Eisenhower Dr.

Wooten drove over and determined the voting machine issue stemmed from operator error, made slightly worse by the growing line of voters outside.

He stepped in, and he and the poll workers managed to figure out the issue and said the line was moving smoothly when he left to try and put out another fire. Two poll workers called in sick on election day, Wooten said, and that sent ripples through the organizational plans.

But, he said, that too will be resolved.

Wooten was a poll worker himself before he took this job, with two decades of experience. He's in command now, but it’s far from his first rodeo. He says these early morning issues are going to happen.

“Other than having to move people around, we’ve really only had some minor things, printers not working, things like that,” Wooten said. “When you (use) 2,700 pieces of equipment you’re gonna have some issue. But every poll opened, and no poll opened late.”

Poll 2-04, located at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church on East 37th Street, opened Tuesday morning with a few voters ready to go. By 7:30 a.m., 19 voters had cast ballots in Georgia's Primary Election.
Poll 2-04, located at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church on East 37th Street, opened Tuesday morning with a few voters ready to go. By 7:30 a.m., 19 voters had cast ballots in Georgia's Primary Election.

7:53 a.m. | Voting off to a strong start

As the sun came up over Precinct 2-05 on Tuesday, election day was off to a strong start in Chatham. Nineteen voters had cast their ballots in the first 30 minutes of the polls opening.

A poll manager at the location said things were moving quickly for their small precinct team, but there were no lines to be seen outside.

But morning is typically when election issues pop up, this time is no different. A caller reported that Precinct 1-06, Central Church of Christ, had issues with getting their voting machines online.

Precinct 4-08, at Wilmington Presbyterian church, had an issue with the ballot scanner, which voters place their paper ballot into after voting.

Board of Elections Supervisor Billy Wooten says his team is checking into these issues.

7:30 | Early voting showed big interest in the primary

While election day turnout remains to be seen, many Georgians had already cast their ballot in the early voting period.

In the three weeks of early voting, more than 850,000 voters cast a ballot either in person or returned an absentee ballot.

Compared with early-voting turnout in recent primaries, this represented a 168% increase over 2018's gubernatorial primary and a 212% jump above 2020, the last presidential primary year.

Of those ballots cast, most were the Republican ticket, with many hotly contested down ballot races, as well as the much-talked-about Governor's race: Incumbent Brian Kemp vs Trump-endorsed David Perdue.

Republicans cast 483,149 ballots early; Democrats cast 368,949; nonpartisan voters cast 5,303 early ballots.

More: Countdown to Election Day 2022: How Georgia voters can cast their ballots for the May 24 primary

How and where to vote in today's elections

Here's what's required to cast your ballot in today's primary and nonpartisan general elections:

  • You must be registered to vote. The deadline to register for this election was April 25.

  • Voters must show a valid photo ID when voting in person

  • Go to your assigned polling place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on May 24. Those in line by 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

Sample ballot, polling places

Want to know where to vote and who's on the ballot? You can find sample ballots and polling location on the My Voter Page on the Secretary of State website.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Live updates: Georgia, Savannah area primary elections 2022 coverage