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It’s official — District 24 state House race in Forsyth headed to a runoff
Elections board certifies results during meeting Friday

Early voting set


Forsyth County’s elections board has established the dates and times for early voting in the July 14 runoff election for the District 24 seat in the state House of Representatives.

The first week of early voting would run from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. June 29 to July 2, a Thursday, at the Forsyth County Administration Building in downtown Cumming.

No Friday voting would be held that week due to county offices being closed for the July Fourth holiday.

The second week would be held at the administration building and the Midway Park Community Building, 5100 Post Road in west Forsyth, though hours would vary by the day.

From July 6-9, voting would be open from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. On July 10, however, the hours would be 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

Polls wouldn’t be open on a Saturday during early voting, nor is that a requirement for a runoff election.

Factoring into the decision, officials said, were financial concerns and the face July Fourth falls on a Saturday this year.


-- Kelly Whitmire

FORSYTH COUNTY — A July 14 runoff election between Sheri Gilligan and David Van Sant for the District 24 seat in the state House of Representatives is all but certain.

On Friday, the Forsyth County Board of Voter Registrations reviewed provisional and overseas ballots and certified the results of Tuesday night’s special election.

The four previously uncounted ballots were not enough to give the outright win to Gilligan, who received 1,785 votes, or about 49.9 percent, of the required 50 percent plus one vote majority.

Van Sant was the next closet in the four Republican field, garnering 877 votes, or 24.5 percent of the total.

The winner will serve the remaining 18 months on the term of longtime incumbent Mark Hamilton, who stepped down last month to relocate to Tennessee for a job.

The district spans Cumming and parts of north and west Forsyth and includes parts of six precincts: Coal Mountain, Cumming, Midway, Heardsville, Otwell and Polo.

Barbara Luth, Forsyth’s supervisor of voter registrations and elections, said provisional ballots occur when more research needs to be done on a voter’s circumstances.

The three ballots in question belonged to: a person who lived across the street from the district line and wasn’t eligible; another who couldn’t make it to her own polling station; and a third whose change of address form couldn’t be confirmed at the polls.

“The reason that we did not open these Tuesday night is because the board has to do the research, the staff has to do the research, and also we also had [a fourth] ballot that was sent to South Africa and we had to make sure that that person had until today return it to us.”

In the end, only the ballot of the voter who couldn’t make it her poll was allowed. And it went to David Van Sant.

The ballot from South Africa did not arrive by the deadline.

Gilligan, a former CIA analyst who now teaches at Lanier Technical College, said she and her team were optimistic that the provisional ballots would be enough to give her the majority.

“But that’s not what happened, so we are in a runoff,” she said.

Gilligan added that was grateful for the support she had received, and plans to fight for local residents if elected next month.

“I think that on Tuesday the voters turned out in large numbers and the message was loud and clear — money from trial lawyers and special interests, they won’t buy this election,” she said. “We’re very, very humbled by the support that we have received and we look forward to a spirited runoff.

“I promise to everyone out there that I will listen to their concerns and I will also fight for our conservative values.”

Van Sant, a local attorney, did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment later.

But his political consultant, Seth Weathers, has previously said their camp would go into a runoff with “refreshed enthusiasm and excitement.”

“This campaign was a collection of everyday residents who are looking for someone that will represent them and not the interests of lobbyists and other special interest groups,” Weathers said.

According to Luth, the situation involving a possible runoff has been unique.

“Not in the 20 years that I’ve been doing elections have I seen it this close to a win or runoff situation,” she said. “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I just have not had to deal with it. This is the closest I’ve ever [seen.]”

With such a tight race, there has been talk that Gilligan would request a recount, which she must do within 48 hours of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp certifying the election this week.

“We haven’t really decided what it would take, how many votes would have to swing and even is it worth a recount,” Gilligan said.  “So we’re still studying that and I know … we have time to make the decision.”

There also has been speculation that Van Sant could concede the election, though Gilligan said she and her team had not asked him to so.

And according to Luth, a withdrawal would not eliminate the need for a runoff.

“If he were to withdraw, that would mean the next candidate down would have to withdraw,” Luth said. “We would have to have a succession of withdrawals.”

The contest also included candidates Will Kremer and Ethan Underwood. Underwood received 739 votes, or about 21 percent of the total, to finish third, while Kremer received 171 votes, or about 4.8 percent.