Election night in Santa Rosa County proved to be one for the record books in more ways than one.
While there were over 77,100 votes cast in the General Election, the big news came after 7 p.m. when the polls closed.
While lines were finishing at places like the Pace Fire Department, Milton Community Center, and the Gulf Breeze precincts, problems delayed the release of any election returns.
“The equipment wouldn’t work,” said Santa Rosa Supervisor of Elections Ann Bodenstein. “The tabulation machine here at the elections office malfunctioned.”
That one problem brought Santa Rosa County under the National Spotlight as FOX News reported it could not project a winner in Florida as Santa Rosa County had reported any votes.
Once the problem was corrected the needle swung towards Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who soundly defeated President Barack Obama 58,041 to 17,701 unofficially. The former Massachusetts Governor took over 75.5 percent of the vote to Obama’s 23 percent.
Locally two races were contested for the offices of Sheriff of Santa Rosa County and the District 4 seat on the Santa Rosa County Board of Education.
While considered the most contested race on the ballot locally, incumbent Sheriff Wendell Hall became the first sheriff to be elected to four consecutive terms as he defeated challenger Chris Roper 49,478 to 22,205.
“Becoming the first four term sheriff is special,” Hall said. “I couldn’t be happier that the people of Santa Rosa County have voted their trust in me for four terms.
“But this is not just about me as I have had some great help from the men and women at the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.”
Hall has touted how special Santa Rosa County is during the campaign and his message was no different Tuesday night after the returns came in.
“Santa Rosa is a great county and I want to help keep it that way.”
For Roper this appears to have ended his political aspirations to hold a county office.
“I knew it was third time’s the charm or three strikes and I am out,” said Roper who has challenge Hall in 2004, 2008, and 2012. “It is three strikes and I am out.
“I felt confident as I went around to the precincts as the people came up to me and told me they voted for me, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Former educator Jenny Granse held on to defeat Charles Elliott in what was the most contested race of the day 34,186 to 28,914.
Granse who fell short of winning the seat outright this past August Primary by approximately 250 votes, will succeed Jo Ann Simpson, who did not seek re-election.
Bodenstein reported little if any problems throughout the day except for a malfunction at the Gulf Breeze precinct, when the DS200 malfunctioned.
“I didn’t learn about the problem at first,” Bodenstein said. “But when I was notified of the problem we quickly replaced the machine and things got back to normal as quickly as possible.”
While Bodenstein was predicting 80 to 90 percent voter turnout on Tuesday, the final unofficial figure was 66 percent of the 116,941 registered voters in Santa Rosa County.
“It has been a busy past few weeks,” Bodenstein said. “We voted over 50 percent of the ballot cast before we ever went to the polls.”
Lines were reported early on at places like the Avalon Precinct, while later in the day those lines moved to places like Pace, Pine Terrace, Milton Community Center, and Gulf Breeze.
The top five precincts were No. 34 at Hidden Creek with 6,309 voting followed by No. 24 Pea Ridge (4,521), No. 26 East Navarre (4,141), No. 22 Gulf Breeze (3,764) and No. 35 Biscayne Point (3,068).
The lowest percentage of voter turnout at a precinct was at Precinct No. 29 at West Navarre, while had 57.23 percent vote or 1,465 of the 2,560 registered voters.
In other races locally:
Connie Mack 50,639
Bill Nelson 21,862
Jeff Miller 57,094
Jim Bryan 14,912
Calen Fretts 2,506