At 7:30 p.m. -- half an hour after the polls officially closed -- excitement at the Columbia County Board of Elections was high.
Activity, on the other hand, was not.
The early votes, denoted as Present Absentee in the official vernacular, had come in, as have the carefully sealed boxes from a single precinct. Counting had begun. Word that one precinct still had a line of voters who had arrived before the cutoff means that it would be some time before those votes arrived and even longer before they could be added to the tally.
It looked like it might be a long night.
Carolyn Chase, the first candidate to take a seat beneath the scrolling result screen, said she isn’t sure if this, the waiting, would be the best or worst part of the process.
“But I think it’s the best,” she said with a laugh.
As the evening proceeded, more people started to file in. Representatives from campaigns. The politically curious aware that the earliest word will be circulated there. Poll workers. All are focused on the slowly scrolling screen.
The first results are the early votes. They show Jason Troiano, Trey Allen, Barry Fleming, Roxanne Whitaker, and Charles Allen with significant early leads and tighter races for the District 1 Board of Education race and the 12 District Congressional race. Early results also voters in favor of Sunday alcohol sales, reduction in taxation on products made in the state, gun licenses for military members under the age of 21, and putting a limit on lobbiest gifts, The TSPLOST vote remains close. As the night progressed -- somewhat slowly, as expected -- the numbers, but not the eventual outcomes, shifted and changed. Carolyn Chase ceded her early lead to David Dekle, but not so much that the expected run-off was avoided. Jason Troiiano, who positively stormed out of the gate ended up with a more modest 54 percent of the vote -- still more than enough to avoid an additional three weeks of campaigning.
At Lee Anderson’s Washington Road campaign headquarters, the mood remained high despite some disappointment that a run-off election was not avoided.
“That’s what happens when you have four good people running,” Anderson said.
When the final vote was counted after 10 p.m., the results showed incumbents and alcohol sales were popular and run-off elections will remain on the calendar. Here’s a look at the results.
District 1 Commissioner Trey Allen beat challenger Lee Benedict and District 3 Commissioner Charles Allen won over Jan “Butch” Holley, with each incumbent getting nearly 70 percent of the vote.
In the District 4 school board race, Roxanne Whitaker won nearly 60 percent of the vote to beat Deborah Fisher and Bobby Ray Strickland. In the District 1 school board race, Carolyn Chase and David Dekle will compete in a runoff Aug. 21.
In the District 121 state House race, Barry Fleming beat Mike Popplewell with 61.54 percent of the vote.
There won’t be a runoff in the chief Magistrate race despite the three-candidate field. Jason Troiano took nearly 54 percent of the vote.
As a result of the Sunday package alcohol sales measure passing on Tuesday, alcohol will be sold on Sundays beginning Labor Day weekend. While Columbia County voters rejected the transportation sales tax, its passage in the rest of the Central Savannah River Area tax district means the sales tax will increase to 8 percent.
On the nonbinding ballot questions, Columbia County voted in favor of limiting lobbyist gifts, granting gun licenses to service members younger than 21, the life amendment question, tax credits for home energy costs, and a Made in Georgia tax break.
Advance declaration of party affiliation and casino gambling did not fare as well.