It's like the never-ending election.
It was like that Tuesday night, when a link between two computer systems in the Muscogee County elections office repeatedly timed out, forcing workers finally to again scan all of Columbus' paper absentee mail-in ballots.
Those are tallied by optical scan, and because that's a different computer than the touch-screen voting system everyone else uses, the data from the optical scanner has to be transferred to the touch-screen memory cards to be tabulated into the total and assimilated into precinct tallies.
After a second scan of around 1,500
paper ballots, the final tally was finished about 2:45 a.m. as a subdued Sheriff John Darr waited.
All night his race against challenger Pam Brown had been too close to call, and as the absentee vote dribbled out, the margin thinned. At one point only seven votes separated them.
But then Darr sprinted ahead, finishing with a 76-point lead that the provisional and military ballots counted Friday cut by only five, leaving the final score 8,618, or 50.21 percent, to 8,547, or 49.79 percent.
Darr won 16 of Columbus' 27 voting precincts.
Under Georgia law, Brown has until Tuesday to seek a recount, now that the board-certified tally shows the difference is within 1 percent.
Boren said she likely would set that recount for Thursday, if Brown requests it.
Brown's not alone in facing a deadline this week.
Disqualified by a bounced check for his Democratic Primary qualifying fee, incumbent Coroner Bill Thrower has until 5 p.m. Monday to submit a petition with enough registered voters' names to qualify as an independent in November, Boren said.
If he fails to get the signatures needed, only Democrat Buddy Bryan will be on the General Election ballot: No Republican's running.
State law says Thrower's petition needs names equaling at least 5 percent of those registered to vote in the last coroner's election, in 2008. That's 5 percent of 118,302, or 5,916 -- though Boren says typically so many petition signatures are ruled ineligible that it's best to get at least a third more, about 7,500.
Failing to make the ballot, Thrower could launch a write-in campaign, for which he need only run a legal ad.
Thrower's disqualification didn't stop him from getting twice as many votes Tuesday as Bryan, though they didn't count: The score was 10,555 to 5,268.
Voters confused by Tuesday's ballot choices are in for a pop quiz Aug. 21 as Columbus holds a Democratic and a Republican runoff.
The first question is: Who gets to vote in which?
It's easier to explain who doesn't get to: People who picked a party primary ballot Tuesday cannot switch to the other party's runoff.
If you voted in the Democratic Primary race for Municipal Court judge, you cannot vote in the Republican runoff for the 2nd Congressional District, pitting Rick Allen against John House.
If you voted Tuesday in that Republican Primary, you can't vote Aug. 21 in the Democratic Municipal Court judge runoff, in which incumbent Steven Smith faces challenger Cynthia Maisano.
But if you got a nonpartisan ballot Tuesday, you can vote in either party's runoff. Also anyone who did not vote Tuesday but was registered as of July 2 may vote in either runoff.
Here's the score in those:
For Municipal Court judge, Smith in returns certified Friday got 7,079, or 43.24 percent; Maisano had 4,928, or 30.1 percent; and Robert Wilson had 4,365, or 26.66 percent. No Republican will seek the office in November.
According to the Georgia Secretary of State, in the 2nd Congressional District primary, Allen led with 11,335, or 41.94 percent; House had 8,635, or 31.95 percent; and Ken DeLoach had 7,054, or 26.1 percent. The runoff victor will face incumbent Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop in November.
Tuesday's tally precinct by precinct showed a pattern: The sheriff's race nearly matched the Superior Court judge's contest between incumbent Art Smith and challenger LaRae Dixon Moore. With a few exceptions, Brown won where Moore won and Darr won where Smith won.
The judge's race encompassed the entire judicial circuit, so Muscogee County's tally was just a portion. But within Columbus, it was close: Moore got 49.6 percent; Smith got 50.3.
Tuesday's initial returns showed that in some precincts percentages for the sheriff's and judge's races nearly matched:
St. Peter: Moore 26.22, Smith 73.65; Brown 27.05, Darr 72.95.
Cornerstone: Moore 31.21, Smith 68.45; Brown 30.03, Darr 69.97.
Northside Baptist: Moore 36.19, Smith 63.57; Brown 35.24, Darr 64.76.
St. Mark-Heiferhorn: Moore 27.04, Smith 72.88; Brown 30.35, Darr 69.65.
Eddy-Key: Moore 57.14, Smith 42.68; Brown 56.2, Darr 43.8.
Gentian-Reese: Moore 33.75, Smith 66.17; Brown 35.08, Darr 64.92.
Moon-Morningside: Moore 30.34, Smith 69.66; Brown 29.02, Darr 70.98.
St. Andrews-Midland: Moore 41.53, Smith 58.47; Brown 42.01, Darr 57.99.
Psalmond-Mathews: Moore 39.32, Smith 60.68; Brown 40.44, Darr 59.56.
Gallops-Hannan: Moore 51.52, Smith 48.48; Brown 49.15, Darr 50.85.
Epworth: Moore 29.17, Smith 70.83; Brown 27.22, Darr 72.78.
St. Paul: Moore 25.19, Smith 74.61; Brown 25.4, Darr 74.6.
Among those waiting Friday at the Government Center as the elections board certified the final tally were Republican state Sen. Josh McKoon and former Democratic state Rep. Jed Harris.
Shown the judge-sheriff pattern, McKoon said it broke down like both women were Democrats and both men Republicans: Most of the predominantly Democratic precincts picked Brown and Moore; Republican precincts picked Darr and Smith.
The latter's no surprise: Smith is a longtime Republican, though the Superior Court judge's race is nonpartisan. But the similar vote for Darr showed a wave of Republicans crossing over to vote in the sheriff's Democratic Primary, McKoon said.
Harris noted the hotly contested Republican Primary for Georgia House District 133, in which John Pezold unseated incumbent Kip Smith, consumed about 1,800 votes out of 2,700 cast in the northern precincts of St. Mark-Heiferhorn and Wynnbrook Baptist Church. Without that primary, Darr might have drawn even more Republican votes, Harris said.