By 10:30 p.m. with three-quarters of the vote counted, 57 percent of those at the polls voted yes and 43 percent no on the charter-school amendment.
The least controversial would allow three government agencies to enter multi-year contracts in an effort to bargain with landlords for a cheaper lease. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce came out in favor of the longer leases as a negotiating tactic most businesses use, and there was no organized opposition.
One of the agencies, the State Properties Commission, estimated the possible savings at $66 million over the next 10 years. And at 10:30 p.m., the vote was 63 percent for and 37 percent against.
The real controversy centered on Amendment 1 which would give state appointees authority to grant operating charters to taxpayer-funded schools started by individuals even if the locally elected school board objected. Organized campaigns popped up on both sides of the issue.
Families for Better Public Schools raised more than $1.85 million, mostly from out-of-state conservatives devoted to school-choice initiatives around the country. The opposition, Vote SMART! NO To State-Controlled Schools! only raised $123,000, all from within the state and mostly from school administrators and their vendors.
Before the votes were counted Tuesday, both sides were optimistic.
"We tried to focus our campaign on Georgia's students and providing more educational opportunities so that our state can be more competitive for jobs and investment," said Bert Brantley, spokesman for Families. "We have let charter-school students and parents tell their stories of how having a public-school option has helped their families."
On the other hand, Jane Langley, campaign manager for Vote SMART, offered her desire that now attention would shift to other education issues.
"We hope that all the energy and money spent on this campaign can now be applied where it matters most -- advocating to restore funding to the classrooms and a quality education for all Georgia children," she said. "The winners will be all of Georgia."
Even the wording of the amendment's description on the ballot sparked controversy, with one group of opponents filing suit and another asking the U.S. Department of Justice to seek a voter-fraud case over it.
Political observers say it could have figured in the outcome.
"The wording will have some impact but likely not more than a point," said pollster Matt Towery, CEO of InsiderAdvantage.
Charles Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia, notes that most voters don't study ballot issues, especially when neither side has the millions of dollars needed for a television campaign to raise awareness.
"Many, I suspect, use a brief rule of thumb. If the word tax' appears in the statement, they vote against the proposal," he said. "Beyond that, the pattern in recent years has been for amendments to secure approval. The language in the preface to the charter-school amendment can't hurt and may improve its prospects for adoption."
The final tally will break along demographic lines, according to Towery.
"...(P)olling shows independents and voters over the age of 50 voting against," he said. "Most independent voters don't know what a charter school is. It has been a hard-core GOP issue, but others are not aware."
Election results showed that rural voters opposed the amendment while it won support in cities and suburbs where most of the charter schools have been organized.