18-vote difference in Putnam County sheriff race triggers automatic recount

Putnam County will have to wait a little longer for a new sheriff.

“Only 18 votes,” was whispered Tuesday evening through the waiting room of the Putnam County Supervisor of Elections Office as the final four precincts’ votes appeared on the screen, triggering a mandatory recount for the Putnam County sheriff’s race.

As votes were tallied, Supervisor of Elections Charles Overturf III told the crowd a recount was necessary because the difference between the top two candidates was less than a quarter of a percentage point.

Overturf said the canvassing board would meet 11:30 a.m. today with both candidates to discuss the recount.

Republican candidate Jon Kinney held the lead in the Putnam County sheriff’s race by 18 votes over Democrat Gator DeLoach. No-party affiliation candidate Edison Edison received just 3 percent of the overall vote.

Unofficial results showed Kinney received 15,658 votes for 48.51 percent of the vote and DeLoach had 15,640 votes for 48.46 percent of the vote. Edison received 979 votes in a general election that drew a record number of voters.

“We have to find out a couple of things from the state (Division of Elections),” Overturf told the crowd when unofficial results showed a recount would be needed.

Some issues Overturf said he needed clarification from the state dealt with the use of voting machines.

“(We need to find out), ‘Do we have to set up every piece or can we use 10 and pull cards in and out,’” Overturf said.

Overturf said while the canvassing board has 10 days to complete a recount, which could leave the sheriff’s race undecided until Nov. 18, the goal was to not prolong the process if possible.

With Veterans Day on Friday, and a conflict with a member of the canvassing board  Saturday, Overturf said he did not think they would be ready by Thursday, pushing a recount to next week.

Votes from military personnel postmarked Nov. 8 could still arrive in the mail, Overturf said, which could change the outcome of the race.

“I’ve never seen a race this close,” Kinney said. “I’m totally speechless.”

Kinney said despite the shock, it was important to stay calm, relax and keep a good attitude.

“I want to congratulate Gator (DeLoach) on his participation and hard work,” Kinney said. “Both parties ran a great campaign. We worked so hard for it to come to this.”

DeLoach also echoed a feeling of surprise.

“I am shocked.” DeLoach said. “I can’t recall one race that was this close.”

Despite a shortage of 18 votes, DeLoach said he believes provisional and military votes could change the outcome.

“The race is far from over,” DeLoach said. “I hold onto hope for a change with the votes still out there.”

Palatka Daily News

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