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SPLOST Squeaks to Victory by 79 Votes

The arguing over wants vs. needs and property taxes vs. sales taxes has left Cobb County closely divided at the polls.

Cobb County’s SPLOST election captured some March Madness on Tuesday, and the decision on the 1 percent sales tax could be going into overtime.

With all 153 precincts reporting and all absentee and early ballots counted by 10:30 p.m., the referendum unofficially passed by 79 votes out of the 42,971 cast.

That margin of 0.18 percent was even closer than the September 2005 election that enacted the current Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax by a comparatively easy 114 votes.

There’s no reason to think that the fierce battled waged between advocates and opponents of the SPLOST extension has come to an end.

As questions arose through the night about recounts of the paper absentee ballots and recanvasses of the electronic votes, Cobb County officials didn’t have the answers.

The “current goal is getting an accurate count of the votes cast,” county spokesman Robert Quigley said in an e-mail at 9:50 p.m. “We will focus on the next steps once we complete the task at hand.”

Quigley said the elections board’s attorney should be able to provide answers Wednesday about what happens next.

The same night that the NCAA men’s Division I basketball tournament began with an overtime game in Dayton (UNC-Asheville beat Arkansas-Little Rock 81-77), overtime seemed a fitting result in Cobb. The vote lead went back and forth between approval and rejection from the time the first numbers came out around 7:30 until the final numbers arrived three hours later.

While the sales tax held the lead most of the night, the “no” side moved ahead by 56 votes in the second-to-last release of vote totals from the Cobb County Board of Elections & Registration. But the final six precincts reversed the result and pushed the SPLOST to the unofficial victory.

That excitement came after a day featuring light turnout across Cobb. Less than 11 percent of the active registered electorate of 392,589 voted in an election with only one issue: whether to extend the SPLOST for four more years.

That penny-per-dollar tax would raise a projected $492 million from Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2015, to pay for roads, parks, public safety improvements and other projects.

That total includes more than $13.3 million for the city of Acworth, including $4.75 million for a new police headquarters. Also on the for the city are road improvements, park work and a sports complex upgrade.

Read on for more about the slow day at the polls and the exciting night of counting, and return to Acworth Patch on Wednesday for updates and reaction.

Update: 10:30 p.m.

It's the last twist of the night, as the SPLOST appears to have passed tonight by 79 votes out of 42,971 votes counted. That's a margin of 0.18 percentage point.

However, this election appears to be far from decided. Though the vote totals include all Election Day ballots at 153 precincts, all absentee ballots and all early votes, the results remain unofficial.

An election this close seems likely to result in an effort to recount or recanvass the ballots, the vast majority of which were cast electronically. Cobb County said it expects to have more information on the next steps Wednesday.

Update: 10:03 p.m.

The anti-SPLOST forces, who have been trailing for hours, have taken a 56-vote lead with 41,154 votes counted and six precincts remaining. That's a gap of 0.14 percentage point.

Questions have arisen during the night about recounts of the paper absentee ballots and recanvasses of the electronic votes, but Cobb County officials don’t have the answers yet.

The “current goal is getting an accurate count of the votes cast,” county spokesman Robert Quigley said in an e-mail at 9:50 p.m. “We will focus on the next steps once we complete the task at hand.”

Quigley said the elections board’s attorney should be able to provide answers Wednesday about what happens next.

Update: 9:43 p.m.

What a difference seven minutes makes. The lead for SPLOST has been cut to 16 votes, or a margin of 0.04 percentage point. With 39,864 votes counted and just 11 precincts left, get ready for a nail-biting finish.

Update: 9:36 p.m.

We're nearing the end of vote counting, with only 15 precincts left to report in. With 39,076 votes recorded in 138 precincts, SPLOST's passage is ahead by 122 votes, or 0.32 percentage point. As we've seen tonight, though, no lead is secure.

Update: 9:27 p.m.

Four more precincts have reported results, tightening up the SPLOST election once again. With 37,167 votes counted from 127 precincts, the "yes" side for SPLOST leads by 81 votes, or 0.22 percentage point. Still to be counted are the ballots from 26 precincts.

Cobb County Election Results

153 of 153 precincts reporting Yes No Should Cobb County collect a 1 percent SPLOST for capital projects from Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2015? 21,525 21,446
Percentage 50.09% 49.91%

Unofficial results from the Cobb County Board of Elections & Registration as of 10:30 p.m.

Update: 9:12 p.m.

Never let it be said that one person's vote doesn't matter. With 123 precincts and all absentee and early votes counted, according to the Cobb elections website, the SPLOST extension is ahead by 98 votes, or 0.26 percentage point. With 36,306 votes counted, any margin of victory at this point will most likely be exceedingly slim.

Update: 8:56 p.m.

With 120 precincts reporting in, this vote couldn't get much closer. Out of 35,418 votes counted so far, the SPLOST extension is winning by four votes. The difference in percentage points is 0.02. Stay with Patch as we update this tospy-turvy election result, and brace for the recounts.

Update: 8:47 p.m.

The votes have gone back SPLOST's way. With seven more precincts reporting in, the pro-SPLOST side outnumbers the anti-SPLOST votes by the margin of 24 votes out of 34,196 counted, or 0.08 percerntage point. It seems as though early and absentee voting will decide this election, and we'll keep updating as the night progresses.

Update: 8:33 p.m.

Unsurprisingly, the vote has swung again. Now the slim majority is against the SPLOST. Although no new precincts called in, 1,007 new votes were recorded. The "no" side's advantage is only 92 votes, or 0.28 percentage point. This one is going to go right down to the wire.

Update: 8:15 p.m.

That daylight has vanished. The vote is still going in favor of the SPLOST but by a margin of just 103 votes out of 31,343 cast at 108 precincts. That's a difference of 0.32 percent.

Update: 8:08 p.m.

SPLOST supporters have opened a bit of daylight over the opponents. Out of 24,480 votes counted at 106 of 153 precincts, the margin has widened to 570 votes and 2.16 percentage points.

Update: 7:55 p.m.

The pendulum has now swung back to the "yes" side after 88 of 153 precincts reported. With 19,954 votes cast, the differential is now at 226 votes in favor of the supporters. This situation could change when the next results come in; this election is still too close to call.

Update: 7:40 p.m.

The balance has shifted to the "no" side with 11,158 votes in 54 precincts counted. Right now, the two sides are separated by a mere 114 votes, exactly the number by which the current SPLOST passed in September 2005. As the evening continues, expect more of the same.

Update: 7:30 p.m.

If the first results are a true test, this election is going to be close all night. Out of the first 1,891 votes counted, only 13 divide the pro side from the con side. Needless to say, it's too close to call now.

We'll keep updating the results as they come in from the Cobb Board of Elections & Registration, and we'll look for reaction from both sides in the SPLOST debate. We'd love to hear how you voted and why in our comments box.

Update 4:30 p.m.

Acworth's voting continues at a steady if unhurried pace.

Based on checks that started at 3 p.m., 128 people had voted at NorthStar Chuch, 52 at Acworth Elementary School and 149 at the Acworth Beach House. The polls for the one-item SPLOST special election close at 7 p.m.

Update 2:38 p.m.

Despite the overcast weather and one-item ballot, Acworth voters trickled into their polling places around lunchtime.

No polling places had lines outside them; it took longer to fill out the voter ID forms and get the voting card than it did to cast a ballot.

The lunchtime totals for a few Acworth polling places:

  • Acworth Elementary, 25.
  • NorthStar Church, 73.
  • Acworth Beach House, 85.

Other sites around Cobb County were reporting similar numbers; Smitha Middle School in Marietta, for example, reported 53 voters at roughly 2:20 p.m.

County Board of Elections & Registration Director Janine Eveler said this morning's rain might have scared off a few voters.

As of 10 a.m., the voter turnout rate was on track for 10 percent of Cobb's 392,589 active registered voters to get to the polls by the 7 p.m. deadline.

"Things are a little slow, but they’re going well," Eveler said.

Tommy Lanier, who voted at the Acworth Beach House, opposes extending the SPLOST.

"I'm tired of government bureaucracy spending money on uncecessary things," he said.

Frank I. Cullins, a former Kennesaw councilman, said he was going to vote against the sales tax after grabbing lunch at Nibbles in Acworth.

"We're taxed enough as it is," he said, "we don't need to continue on with it."

Stay with Acworth Patch as we head back to the polling places to get some pre-rush-hour numbers and tally the votes as the evening progresses.

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Voters in Cobb County today will decide whether they want four more years of a special 1 percent local sales tax for capital projects and thus determine whether an estimated $492 million worth of projects will move forward, including more than $13.3 million worth of work in Acworth.

The biggest project to be funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is a new , priced at $4.75 million, but the also includes improvements to roads and parks, an upgraded sports complex, and an expansion of downtown parking to support Main Street businesses.

The Acworth Business Association ; the Georgia Tea Party's J.D. Van Brink . You also can read more about the SPLOST's potential in Acworth.

The extension of the SPLOST from Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2015, is the only issue on the ballot. If it passes, the overall sales tax in the county will remain 6 percent; if it fails, that rate will fall next year to 5 percent, the lowest in the state and 2 cents lower on every dollar than many of Cobb's neighbors charge.

County commissioners whittled the extension from six years to four before deciding in December to . Read all about the full county SPLOST list here. The advocates and opponents of the proposal on the issue.

The county Board of Elections & Registration recorded that ended Friday, and an additional 220 mail-in ballots could come in today. Every vote could be crucial because the last time the county voted on a nonschool SPLOST, in September 2005, the six-year measure passed by only 114 votes out of some 40,000 cast.

The early votes represent about 1.7 percent of Cobb’s 392,589 active registered voters, fewer than 215,000 of whom voted in the general election Nov. 2. The stormy weather today could dampen what's likely to be light voter turnout anyway.

The polls are open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and you need one of six approved forms of identification to vote.

The following chart shows polling places in Acworth, and a PDF with this article includes other polling places near the city. You can check your voter registration status and polling place at Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s website. Cobb offers maps of the polling places here.

PRECINCT LOCATION Acworth 1 A , 3413 Blue Springs Road Acworth 1 B Acworth Beach House, 2293 Beach St. Acworth 1 C , 4220 Cantrell Road Baker 1 , 4310 Moon Station Lane Durham 1 , 2891 Mars Hill Road Ford 1 , 1345 Mars Hill Road Frey 1 , 2865 Mars Hill Road Mars Hill 1 , 3385 Mars Hill Road Pitner 1 , 4575 Wade Green Road Wade Green 1 , 4801 Wade Green Road

Check with Acworth Patch throughout the day for election updates.

M. Holtz March 16, 2011 at 02:30 AM
Thanks for keeping us up to date! Nice to have the "play by play" coverage of such and important event.
Justin Ove March 16, 2011 at 02:39 AM
Mr. Holtz, Thank you very much! It's nice to know that our hard work is appreciated. Regards, Justin Ove

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