LAKE PARK — Preliminary results show a former mayor holding a slim lead in the mayoral race following Tuesday's election, which was dogged with complaints about ballot problems resulting in a state investigation.
The election could be decided by outstanding provisional and absentee ballots.
As of Wednesday morning, unofficial results showed former mayor Keith Sandlin with 173 votes while incumbent Mayor Eric Schindler had 143 votes, said Deb Cox, county elections supervisor.
In a race for two at-large city council seats, Ronald Carter received 172 votes, Tyler Davis got 151 votes and Tracy Fountain got 137 votes, Cox said.
Then are about 1,150-1,200 provisional ballots from Tuesday's general election, she said, but it's not possible to know how many ballots apply to any one given race until they are all counted.
Internet difficulties kept the local elections office from sending updated Lake Park results to the Georgia Secretary of State's elections website, she said.
The subject of some Lake Park voters allegedly being given wrong ballots was raised at the Lake Park City Council meeting Tuesday evening.
Councilwoman Deborah Sauls said when she took part in early voting, she was given a ballot with no Lake Park races on it. Sauls said elections staff told her it was because she lived outside the city limits.
"How could I qualify for and get elected to City Council if I didn't live in the city?" she said.
Sauls said she had to cast a provisional ballot, which "didn't make me happy at all." Provisional ballots are used for people whose eligibility to vote is in question, with the vote being counted after officials double-check that eligibility.
City Clerk Tabitha Fowler said the problem was a "data entry mistake that they (the elections board) can't explain and neither can I."
Sauls said she was assured the mistake had been corrected, placing her in the city for future elections. The councilwoman said she had heard that "four to five" other people faced similar ballot mistakes.
Wednesday morning, Cox said her office uses voter data provided to them by the South Georgia Regional Commission, which received its data from Lake Park. She said the elections office is required by law to send the city two lists — one of voter names and addresses, the other a voter list — to be verified by the city before the election.
Earlier this week, Cox suggested some of the ballot complaints may have arisen from people trying to vote twice — first with the touchscreen voting machines at the polling place, then claiming they got the wrong ballot and asked for a paper provisional ballot.
“That would be illegal,” she said.
Cox said she put in a request for state investigators to look into the Lake Park voting situation.
"I asked for an investigator because rumors can influence elections," she said.
In other business, City Council:
• Decided to trim the number of official city holidays from 13 to 10, to match the federal government's holiday schedule.
• Discussed business license rates, questioning whether to base them on dollar volume or number of people employed at a firm. Council decided to continue discussion in a work session.
• Debated whether to add a court fee to traffic tickets. No decision was made.
• Voted to approve a new sales agreement document for the city cemetery.
Lake Park's next City Council meeting is Dec. 4.
Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.
Provisional ballot numbers were corrected in this story from its original posting.