Early voting numbers

See The Times’ website tonight for general primary election results

More than 3,600 (29.37 percent) of Pierce County’s total registered voters cast an early ballot in the general primary election ahead of Election Day, Tuesday, June 9.  

In an historical twist of events, most of those votes  — 2,244 to be exact  — were cast via absentee, mail in ballot due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19 (coronavirus). As of Friday, June 5, 1,386 voters cast their early vote in person at the Board of Elections office in the Courthouse Annex on Nichols Street during the three weeks of advance voting, including a Saturday voting day, May 30.

By contrast, about 4,500 voters participated in the last contested election for sheriff in 2012 – in advance voting and at the polls Election Day.

Polls will close Tuesday night and votes will be tallied after The Times’ press deadline. Visit www.theblacksheartimes.com or The Times’ Facebook page Tuesday evening for election results. See next week’s print edition of The Times for a breakdown of voting results by district.

The June 9 election was initially set for Tuesday, May 19, but was postponed due to COVID-19. The general primary  — which also featured the presidential preference primary originally set for March 24  — also marked the first statewide test of Georgia’s new voting machines, which include touchscreen machines and scanners officials have hailed as a secure, paper-based voting process.

Four contested county races were on the ballot yesterday. The marquee race was the election for Sheriff. Incumbent Ramsey Bennett, running for a third term, was challenged by Major Robby Boatright of the Blackshear Police Department, Retired Department of Natural Resources Ranger Gary Simmons and retired state trooper Greg Stone. All ran as Republicans.

In the only other county-wide race, voters had three choices for coroner.

Incumbent William Wilson was challenged by  Bill Cselle, former deputy coroner, county commissioner and school board member, and Mandy Alvey-Smith, a registered nurse. All three ran as Republicans.

Voters in district one had a choice for both their county commission and school board race. District one includes the Hacklebarney/Cason areas.

Incumbent Harold Rozier Jr. faced a challenge from retired GBI agent Weyland Yeomans for the Republican nomination. The winner of that race will face Democrat Tyrone Harris in the November general election. Harris, a longtime  contractor, is the first Democrat to qualify for local office in Pierce County since 2010.

There was a three-way race for the district one school board seat. Realtor Kirby Malone, counselor Thomansine McGauley Ricks and retired law enforcement officer Steve Whitehead signed up to run for the post. Current district one representative Jack Saussy announced prior to qualifying he would not run for another term. The school board is non-partisan.

A number of incumbents ran unopposed and will be sworn in to new terms in January 2021. They include  Clerk of Court Thomas W. Sauls, Tax Commissioner Terresa Davis, Surveyor Stephen Duncan, Magistrate Judge Glenda Dowling and Probate Judge Moye Howard. Sauls will begin his sixth term and Davis and Duncan their third terms in January. Dowling was first elected to fill an unexpired term in 1989 and has been re-elected seven times. Howard is currently completing his second term. Sauls, Davis and Duncan are Republicans. The Magistrate and Probate Judge positions are non-partisan.

In district three, county commissioner Randy Dixon and school board member Chip Griner ran unopposed. Dixon has served for 14 years. Griner will begin serving his second term in January. Dixon is a Republican. School board seats are non-partisan. District three includes the Otter Creek and St. Johns Blackshear areas.