There is no rest yet for the undoubtedly weary candidates for Aiken County treasurer.
Counting electronic write-in votes for the seat continued into the night Wednesday with Registration and Elections volunteers tallying votes for each of the 11 candidates by hand. Officials reported they would count until 9 p.m. then pick back up today at 9 a.m.
By 5 p.m. Wednesday, votes had been counted in only four precincts – Aiken No. 1, Aiken No. 2, Aiken No. 3 and Aiken No. 4.
Official numbers from that count, not including the absentee totals released earlier Wednesday, were not available at press time.
“I envisioned at least a two to three-day process. I am concerned about the workers (vote counters) getting too tired. When you get too tired, you make mistakes,” said treasurer hopeful Sonya Spray.
Totals of the absentee paper ballots show John Cagle in the lead with 163 votes. Second is Jason Goings with 116 and third is Angela Gunter with 106. Next are Melissa Oremus (80), Robin Saylor (65), Debra Folk (57), Spray (31), incumbent treasurer Linda Sharpe (28), Francis Pennington (20) and Mike Wheelis (10).
Write-ins Ed Smith and Faye Hatcher did not receive enough votes to be counted in the top 10.
Volunteer vote counters are reviewing the tapes from each of Aiken's approximately 76 precincts in numerical order. A tape is a printout of tallied votes cast in every precinct. The volunteers call out a candidate's name each time it appears on the tape, and others make handwritten hash marks on a form beside the candidate's name. For example, if Ed Smith's name was entered as a write-in 100 times on the electronic ballot in precinct 17, Smith's name is called out 100 times.
That was just if the names were spelled correctly. Variations on spellings were tallied next and, in those cases, a three-person resolution board stepped in to rule on whether a vote would be counted despite misspellings. There were some Debbie Folks, Michelle Oremuses, Broome Gunters, and Sailors.
The board gave those the OK.
“As long as I served, we never did it this way. They won't be finished by Friday. They won't,” Pennington said. Pennington is a retired 30-year veteran of Aiken County Registration and Elections.
Write-in candidates Spray, Gunter, Cagle, Oremus and Goings were keeping their own tallies Wednesday at the Registration and Elections office where the counting took place. Dennis Saylor, the husband of write-in candidate Robin Saylor, was tallying, as well.
“I thought it would be more computerized with matching up the names. This surprises me,” Gunter said.
Though the counting process appears tedious, Goings complimented the officials on doing a good job.
“I applaud their hard work,” he said.
Staff photo by Haley Hughes Aiken County Registration and Elections volunteers Sally Beard, Kristi Betz, Gloria Staples, and Amber Woodward organize the tapes from the electronic voting machines to begin counting votes for treasurer.×