With only a slim margin between Lynn Compton and Jimmy Paulding and thousands of ballots left to process, the race for the next South County representative on the county Board of Supervisors remains too close to call.
Supporters of the candidates will have to wait to claim victory at least until the next results are released, which county Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong said won't happen until Friday.
There's still 29,732 countywide ballots left to count, 6,227 of which are District 4 voters that could influence this race, according to a ballots-remaining report issued Wednesday night.
Clear winners seemed to emerge in all other local races after 56,260 ballots were counted in the hours after the polls closed Tuesday.
But election night was filled with tension and excitement in the South County, as the candidates remained neck-and-neck each time vote counts were released. Compton began with a narrow lead early in the evening. Paulding moved ahead late in the evening before Compton overtook him in the last results posted after midnight.
The entire county is awaiting the results in a District 4 race that will have wide-ranging implications, as the winner will take a seat on the five-person county Board of Supervisors that makes decisions about how to spend public money on things like parks, roads, and mental health services and sets policy on affordable housing and water management.
At last count, Compton had 6,092 votes to Paulding's 6,009.
For his part, Paulding remained upbeat about his standing on Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm optimistic. I think the fact that there are about 5,000 District 4 votes left to be counted just means it's a very close race and I'm looking forward to hearing more on Friday," he said.
"Everybody's waiting on pins and needles, fingers crossed. A lot of folks have been commenting that either way, I ran a really strong campaign," Paulding added.
Compton had said she'd hoped to hear the final results late Tuesday night, but she did expect a tight race.
"This is a very close race, and we look forward to a speedy conclusion. In the meantime, as the county finishes its work, we are awaiting the results like everyone else," she said on Wednesday.
"I do feel good about the campaign we ran. I feel like we had lots of volunteers out, we walked the precinct five times, and I feel like we ran an honest, good campaign," Compton said on election night.
The results are slow to come this year because more voters than ever requested vote-by-mail ballots.
"It's certainly changing the flow of the election," Gong said. "It does adjust my work flow a little bit because now these are just coming in. Of course, the public wants to know what the results are, but it's going to take time with more and more volume of the vote-by-mails we're receiving late in the game."
"Our goal still is to get those in by Friday," Gong said.
Of the ballots that still had to be processed as of Wednesday afternoon, Gong estimated about 20,000 or more had been dropped off at polling stations and another 4,000 or 5,000 were received today. The office will continue to accept mailed ballots through Friday as long as they were postmarked by Election Day on Tuesday.
Election workers were busy in the office Wednesday, checking vote-by-mail envelop signatures to then send ballots through a machine to tally votes.
After Friday, the office will go through a process to canvass the results before it can certify the election, which will include processing provisional ballots, including those cast by people who missed the voter registration deadline.