Voters re-elected Sheriff Joey Dobson by a land slide Tuesday and two county commission incumbents, Gordon Crews and Mark Hartley, retained their seats by much narrower margins.
All are registered Democrats.
The final tallies didn’t come from elections officials until about 2:30 am, however, thanks to a technical glitch that triggered a recount of early voting ballots.
But the number of early voting ballots in the recount did not match the total counted when early voting ended the previous Saturday, at least not initially.
Soon a bag of the ballots was uncovered under a book in the vault where ballots are stored after voting. Once the bag's ballots were counted, the total still did not match the original figure.
About 1:45 am two more bags of early vote ballots were found. They had been mislabeled as absentee ballots when placed in the vault.
Supervisor of Elections Nita Crawford said the recount was launched after a battery powering a memory card that stored some early voting results malfunctioned and the tallies were lost before they could be downloaded to the election office computer.
She said new batteries were installed before the presidential primary in January and remained through the general election. Going forward, the supervisor said she plans to replace the batteries before each election.
While the recounts were taking place, Ms. Crawford announced the battery malfunction to the crowd gathered outside the elections office to hear the results read aloud, precinct-by-precinct, beginning shortly after 7 pm on November 6, including defeated Republican sheriff candidate Cameron Coward and Commissioner Crews.
“This in no way will affect the accuracy of the tally,” Ms. Crawford told the group. “We apologize for the delay.”
About six hours later, after the additional bags of ballots were recovered and counted, elections office staff counted 5479 early ballots, the same number logged after early voting ended. They were finally confident that all the votes had been counted and the election results were accurate.
Gordon Crews, the incumbent Democrat commissioner, had defeated his Republican challenger Leonard Davis by 313 votes, 51 percent to 49 percent. He will enter his third term on the county's governing board.
The margin was slightly larger for fellow Democrat incumbent Mark Hartley, who won his third term by 814 votes, or 8 percent, against Republican Eddie Davis, Jr.
Sheriff Joey Dobson won handily 77 percent to 23 percent for Republican Cameron Coward.
“We’re really pleased,” the sheriff, who will now begin his fifth term in office, said on election night. “I trusted the people of Baker County to make a good decision and I think they did tonight.”
Sheriff Dobson said his department would continue to help county residents and endeavor to keep them safe, just as they’ve done in the past.
Voter turnout here was estimated at 81 percent, among the highest in the state, and early voting accounted nearly half — 48 percent — of all votes cast.
Voters in Baker County also favored seven of the eleven Constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature.
Those gaining a majority of support were: Amendments 1, which represented opposition to a key component of Obamacare; Amendment 2, which cut property taxes for some veterans; Amendment 6, an anti-abortion amendment; Amendment 9; which would give a property tax break to spouses of veterans and first responders killed in the line of duty; Amendment 10, an additional tax exemption for tangible property; and Amendment 11, an additional homestead property tax exemption for low-income seniors.
The results also showed that Baker County voters did not support the retention of most of the judges on the ballot. Only three of seven judges gained a majority of votes here for being retained, and the margins — about 4 percent more for retention than against — were small.
No provisional ballots were cast this year.