Forsyth County elections officials have discovered that a Cumming City Council race thought to have been decided on election night last week is, in fact, a draw.
Following a recount Monday night, officials determined Incumbent Chuck Welch and challenger Chad Crane actually had the same number of votes: 441.
The votes were recounted Monday evening at a Forsyth County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections event to certify three city of Cumming elections and a special election for state House District 26.
Crane was found to be the winner by three votes last week after he received 441 votes to Welch’s 438.
On Monday, 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.
“We found a ballot, although marked clearly for a candidate, was not reading properly through the machine,” said Barbara Luth, elections supervisor of Forsyth County’s department of voter registrations and elections, which handles the city’s elections.
What that means for the city election is not immediately clear, and Luth said the next step would likely be a meeting between the city and county attorneys.
“I’ve never had a vote that was this close, even three votes close,” Luth said. “But it does happen.”
City Clerk Jeff Honea said during the meeting Monday that Cumming’s charter does not say what to do if a tie is reached.
Candidates in city elections only need a simple majority of votes to win an election, unlike Forsyth County and other municipalities in which a candidate must earn 50 percent of votes plus one vote to avoid a runoff.
Luth said, hypothetically, if a runoff was to be held, which would be on Dec. 5, those wanting to vote by absentee paper ballots would need to apply again.
“Any voter that wishes to vote an absentee ballot will have to submit an absentee application, even if they submitted one for the first election; that does not hold up for the runoff,” she said. “It’s a whole new race, so they [would] need to do that.”
She said advance voting would only be at one location, Cumming City Hall, and would start as soon as ballots are ready.
Due to the closeness of the election night numbers, Welch had called for a recount, a process that would have started following the certification on Monday.
Since the board chose to recount at Monday’s meeting, Luth said she would reach out to Welch about his recount request.
Luth said it is not clear how the matter will be resolved but other municipalities had their own methods.
“Some cities have you flip a coin,” she said, laughing. “Some have you pick a card. I don’t think anybody duels.”