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BOE race sparks interest

Now a decade ago, citizens across the United States exercised a right that brave men and women in the military fight to defend. The citizens voted in a presidential election.
While it is true that other ballot castings for commander-in-chiefs have occurred since and 40-plus others were held before, the one in 2000 was memorable – not necessarily for who won, but rather how the election was won.
Those who were residents of the state of Florida back then certainly will agree. Most of our nation’s citizens had never heard of a “chad” in relation to a paper ballot. That, however, would change.
With nonstop television coverage, paper ballots were held to the light in an attempt to discern the intent of the voter. Did that voter mean to punch that oval, or chad, out to signify their desire to vote for the accompanying candidate’s name? That method left millions of Americans hanging in the balance.
Every vote always has importance in an election, but with the George W. Bush-Al Gore race individual votes had tremendous value because of how close the election was.
Currently, Screven County has its own election that’s close – unbelievably close. This local race is of the touch screen voting variety without any chads, but the public still awaits light to be shed on its verdict.
In a nutshell, here is how the Board of Education District 7 race between Brian Bohannon and Craig Martinson has played out thus far. This synopsis will be much quicker than the actual events – the candidates and their supporters can attest to that.
When the results were released at 2:30 in the morning after the Nov. 2 election, Martinson led by one vote over Bohannon. Four provisional ballots and four military ballots remained out. The deadline for the provisionals was Thursday at 5 p.m., while the military ones were due in by 5 p.m. Friday.
Hours later on that same Wednesday the Secretary of State’s office said a runoff had to be held because Dallas LeMaster received votes so no one earned more than 50 percent of the vote. LeMaster announced he had dropped out of the race in September, but his decision was not early enough to have his name removed before the paper ballots were printed for the 45 days of Georgia’s advanced voting.
The Secretary of State’s office did not know LeMaster was not in the race because a box acknowledging LeMaster was out was not clicked when state election officials transferred the counts to Atlanta early Wednesday.
On Thursday, however, the Secretary of State’s office flip-flopped its decision after finding out LeMaster was not actually in the race. State officials said no runoff between Bohannon and Martinson was necessary unless the two candidates tied after the eight outstanding ballots were returned with such a verdict.
Three of the four provisionals were valid. All three the votes went in favor of Bohannon. The four military ones did not arrive.
At 4:45 p.m. Friday, the Secretary of State office confirmed its Thursday ruling of no runoff. Bohannon wins by two votes.
However, minutes before the 5 o’clock hour Monday, Martinson requested a recount and was granted one by Georgia state law.
A recount would finalize this race unless, of course, Bohannon and Martinson tie based on the newly calculated numbers. That would mean a Nov. 30 runoff with the names Bohannon and Martinson, but not LeMaster. If so, the race would join two state races on the ballot.
The recount conducted Wednesday afternoon confirmed that Bohannon did win the seat by the two votes.
Rarely does a race for a school board seat provoke so much anxiety not only in the district, but throughout the county. The question on people’s mouths has been “Who won the election?”
Bohannon versus Martinson sparked an interest that is two-fold.
Two votes separate the candidates. Just two.
That is clear evidence that your vote counts. One District 7 household could have swung the race in either direction. Voting is a powerful tool that you have. By pressing the screen at a polling place, you vote in favor of one person and against another.
This is an immensely powerful tool that must be utilized.
While an interest to vote has been ignited, it looks as though that is not the only interest that has been fueled.
A BOE meeting does not have the drawing power of say a Friday night high school football game. In reality, a school board meeting is much like other board meetings in our county – a sea of empty seats for the public abound.
However, indications are opinions are changing. It is not a fire burning in their bones kind of emotion yet, but over recent months citizens have begun to fill those empty seats at the BOE meetings on the second Monday of the month. Those in attendance are taking it a step further too as they have voiced concerns and questions during the public participation session of the meeting.
Education is extremely valuable. For a lesson in civics, voting does make a difference and board meetings are open to the public. These two lessons have been repeatedly taught.
To those who voted in the Nov. 2 election, thanks and now you have another opportunity to vote Nov. 30 with two statewide runoffs for supreme court justice and court of appeals. For those who did not vote, use the election later this month as a chance to renew or start anew a lifetime of voting.
Exercise your rights and continue to do so after the candidates are elected.