Rockdale County Sheriff-elect Eric Levett and his wife Lavette Levett show their enthusiasm after learning the results of the vote count Friday night. Levett won after a count of provisional and military mail-in absentee ballots gave him a 34-vote margin over incumbent Sheriff Jeff Wigington. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
CONYERS -- Democrat Eric Levett emerged the winner in the Rockdale County Sheriff's race Friday night, taking the election from incumbent Republican Jeff Wigington by a hair-thin margin.
Levett's election completes a Democratic sweep in Tuesday's General Election in which Democrats also replaced Republicans in the Magistrate Court, Probate Court, tax commissioner and coroner races. This was Levett's first attempt at elected office.
The final count of provisional and mail-in ballots from military personnel and overseas civilians reversed the unofficial results tabulated Tuesday night in the General Election. At the end of Tuesday night, Wigington had an 18-vote edge over Levett. Friday night, Levett had a margin of 34 votes.
Final vote counts were 18,726, or 49.96 percent for Wigington and 18,760, or 50.04 percent for Levett.
Friday night Levett said his victory was a matter of faith.
"Once again as I stated to everyone before, I stepped out in faith and I always believed that I would be victorious," Levett said.
Levett, who is a sergeant with the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office, also thanked all voters who turned out in the election -- whether they voted for him or his opponent.
"I have Rockdale County's best interest at heart, and we are planning to serve Rockdale County well," he said.
Wigington, who was seeking his fourth term in office, reiterated his earlier belief that the race would be close. When asked if he would request a recount, he said it was too early to make a decision.
"I'm going to do some talking and checking and talk to the family and make a decision," he said.
According to the Secretary of State's Office, a losing candidate who is within 1 percent of the winning candidate's vote total may request a recount. The request must be made in writing within two days of the election certification.
The General Election results were set to be certified Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Board of Elections Office. Once the results are certified, any candidate eligible for an automatic recount may make a written request to the Board of Elections. The recount would likely take place on Monday, despite the fact that it is a holiday.
The process of counting the provisional and military and overseas civilian ballots at the Board of Elections and Registration Office took about five hours. About 100 candidate supporters and community residents were on hand to witness the vote counting, though the crowd waned as the night grew longer.
The count was conducted by Supervisor of Elections Cynthia Welch, members of the Board of Elections, and members of the Board of Elections staff. Jason O'Toole, a member of the investigative division of the Georgia Secretary of State's Office, was there as an observer.
According to William Todd, chairman of the Board of Elections, there were 237 provisional ballots cast on Tuesday. Of that number, 166 were rejected for a variety of reasons, including the voter failed to provide identification, the voter was a convicted felon, or the voter was not registered to vote in Rockdale County.
"So you can see that a lot of scrutiny was given here to make sure things were done right," said Todd.
There were 103 mail-in votes from military personnel that had to be manually counted Friday night.
The results of the military votes were announced first, followed by the results of the provisional ballots at about 10:40 p.m.
When the absentee military ballots were announced, Levett took the lead by 13 votes. The provisional ballots increased his lead to 34.