Just after 3 p.m. Friday, more than a dozen people sat in the Aiken County Registration and Elections Office storage room, surrounded by ballot boxes and voting machines, the air filled with anticipation.
Candidates and volunteers alike sat with drained faces from 72 hours of anxiety and sleepless nights, but, as the final numbers were calculated one last time, most knew the outcome.
Jason Goings won the 11-person race for Aiken County Treasurer with 3,818 votes, nearly 1,300 more than runner-up John Cagle.
“Of course, it's been nerve-racking since it's taken a long time to do this, but it's certainly understandable with the turnout,” said Goings. “I mean, 16,000 write-in votes is a great turnout for Aiken County, and it shows that the people of Aiken County cared about the office and cared about choosing someone for that office, and they had a lot to choose from.”
There were 11 write-in candidates for the treasurer's office, and 16,063 votes were cast on Tuesday. The process of counting the votes took three long days.
On the first day, Wednesday, computer problems led to only four of 76 precincts being counted. On Thursday, that number rose to 38 when they stopped at midnight. With a 5 p.m. deadline on Friday, tables of volunteers worked to count, check and double check the results.
Nearly everyone involved in the process echoed the same statement after the results were announced they were glad it was finally over.
“It's been stressful, but the commission has done a great job,” Goings said. “The results were not as stressful as Election Day.
“Relieved that it's over with ... it's been a long process. I'm very happy with the way things turned out.”
Angela Gunter, who finished third with 2,027 votes, smiled throughout the afternoon, already aware of what the results would be.
“I'm glad it's over,” Gunter said. “It's been an adventure, and it's a path God led me down, and I'm waiting to see what he's going to do next.”
Melissa Oremus, who finished behind Gunter with 1,967 votes, echoed Gunter's relief.
“I'm glad it's over, but it was an amazing experience,” Oremus said. “Jason's a good guy, and he's going to do a good job.”
Cagle held the most absentee votes before the electronic write-in votes were counted. He led Goings 163-116 heading into Wednesday.
Counting the write-ins proved to be a tedious process for Cynthia Holland, executive director of Aiken County Regulations and Elections, and her team.
“I have to credit (Committee Chairman) Kay McIver; she was the one that arranged everything,” Holland said. “It was down to the wire, but we got it done and the numbers match perfectly.
“I hope it never happens again. It was the first and hopefully last time.”
One of the tangles in the process basically boiled down to trying to read voter's minds. Write-in votes were qualified as either a “vote,” “no intent,” “no count” or “variation.”
A vote and variation both counted for the candidate. A variation meant a misspelling or typo, but it was obvious who the intended candidate was.
A no intent meant the name wasn't close to anyone on the ballot, or non-decipherable. A no count meant that the voter could have used the first name of one candidate and the last of another.
For instance, Debra Folk earned a vote under variation for “Debra Pope,” a no intent for “DebraKeyno” and a no count for “Dec.”
Friday's final numbers were being sent to the state office by the 5 p.m. deadline on Friday, according to Holland.