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Early voting for Post 1 runoff starts Monday

Early voting for the runoff race for Cumming City Council Post 1 will begin Monday.

The only week of advance voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at Cumming City Hall for the Dec. 5 runoff between Incumbent Chuck Welch and challenger Chad Crane, after the candidates each received 441 votes in the Nov. 7 election.

“In all fairness, it was a tie election,” said Barbara Luth, elections supervisor of Forsyth County’s department of voter registrations and elections. “Because the city doesn’t have anything in their charter for ties, then it required a runoff election.”

The city of Cumming does not typically hold election runoffs— instead, the candidate with the most votes wins, unlike Forsyth County and other municipalities which require a runoff if no candidate reaches 50 percent of votes plus one vote.

Crane was found to be the winner by three votes on election day after he received 441 votes to Welch’s 438.

That changed at an election certification event less than a week later, when two mail-in ballots and one paper ballot were found to be in favor of Welch. The paper ballot was apparently not correctly bubbled in, according to an elections official, which initially caused some confusion.

“It was very unexpected because it was so close with three votes and having two provisional ballots out there and then one ballot that the machine didn’t quite catch,” she said.

There was some confusion initially following the meeting as to what would come next since the city charter does not say what to do if a tie is reached. State rules called for a runoff for the race.

Last week, both candidates said they were confident in their chances in the runoff.

Welch said he was happy about the updated numbers and was confident in his chances in a runoff.

“I’m glad it’s a tie because I love being a city councilman and serving the people in the city of Cumming,” Welch said. “You never think something like this could ever be a tie, but I’m thankful it is and I’m looking forward to getting the victory on Dec. 5.”

Crane said he believed city residents had voted for a change and he could help make it happen.

“I'm excited for the challenge; I look forward to the runoff,” Crane said. “That's one of the things that makes this country great is that we have fair and honest elections. Hats off to the election committee for putting in the extra time and finding out the correct and accurate numbers of votes.”

Election Day voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at city hall, and voters who applied for and mailed back an absentee ballot will be required to fill out a new application for the runoff.