Do not be surprised if the winners of several races for elected office are not announced Tuesday night.
Due to the large number of people expected to vote in the general election, plus the unprecedented number of write-in candidates, Aiken County Registration and Election officials advise counting the votes in races involving write-in candidates will most likely continue into Wednesday.
There are three races in Aiken County that involve write-in candidates: S.C. House District 86 with write-in David Lobb challenging incumbent Bill Taylor; County auditor with write-in Daniel Turno challenging Charles Barton and County treasurer with its 11 write-in candidates. The candidates for treasurer are John Cagle, Debra Folk, Jason Goings, Angela Gunter, Faye Hatcher, Melissa Oremus, Francis Pennington, Robin Saylor, Ed Smith, Sonya Spray and Mike Wheelis.
Taylor and Barton's names will appear on the ballot; the names of write-in candidates will not. Voters must manually type in the name of their chosen write-in candidate.
“All of the write-ins will be (counted) the next day,” said Cynthia Holland, executive director of Registration and Elections. “The absentee paper ballots we'll count that night.”
Cagle said Holland has indicated to him that the election commission will not know Tuesday night who wins the race for treasurer.
“I hope we would know by Wednesday afternoon because we're leaving town Thursday (on vacation),” Cagle said, laughing.
Flash cards record and tally every vote submitted by electronic ballot in every precinct across Aiken County. Using those flash cards, election commissioners then print out what's known as a “tape” of tallied votes. In order to be sure every write-in vote is counted, commissioners will look at the audit trail provided by the tapes and will also manually count each vote.
“With the write-ins, we don't know how long those tapes will be,” Holland said. “We want to make sure we do everything right.”
Many candidates in the affected races said they understand and expect that the process of counting write-in votes will be time-consuming.
“In today's world, most people are impatient. They want to be gratified instantly. The count will be in at some juncture. My only regret is the election people have to work so hard to tally the votes,” Taylor said.
Lobb said, “My biggest concern is that all the write-in votes are counted correctly.”
Many also said they'll likely spend Tuesday night at home watching how the U.S. presidential election turns out.
“I'll be home watching the election. It's a pivotal time for the country,” Wheelis said.
Spray said, “I won't be on pins and needles because I have every confidence the voters will make the right choice in writing in Sonya Spray. I can wait until it's correctly counted. I don't envy the election people or their work.”
In order to vote for a write-in candidate of their choice, voters must tap “write-in” under the title. A standard QWERTY keyboard will appear on the electronic screen, and voters must type in the name of their chosen candidate.
Naturally, Turno is interested in learning if he wins the auditor's race, but he's also interested in knowing the outcome of the local referendum “because it's big in this race.”
The referendum asks voters whether they want to retain the current council-administrator form of government or change to a council-manager form of government. Under a council-manager form, the auditor and treasurer would no longer be elected but appointed.
In-person absentee voting continues today until 5 p.m. at Aiken County Registration and Elections, 916 Vaucluse Road, or at Kalmia Plaza. The general election is Tuesday. Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.