It was with a smiley face on her ballot that Wake County school board member Debra Goldman finally ended the 2 1/2 hour struggle on Tuesday to name a new vice chairman.
A look at the 56 rounds of votes shows that Goldman voted for herself 48 times, in all but one case being the lone vote. She voted seven times for other people, usually Chris Malone or Carolyn Morrison, before finally going for John Tedesco in the 56th round to break the stalemate.
“Our chairman keeps saying somebody holds the key here and it's pretty obvious through the vote," Goldman said before the final ballot. "I’m going to cast my vote different this time because this is number 56, which is the year my parents got married and for me that's a good number because it showed unity and it showed commitment and it showed values. I am going to cast my vote this time and take myself out of that position.”
School board chairman Ron Margiotta quipped Goldman, who had been vice chairwoman since December 2009, was the "locksmith" because she holds the key.
Beside her name on her ballot for Tedesco, Goldman drew a smiley face.
With Goldman's vote to create a 4-4 tie, Margiotta was finally able to vote to cast the tie-breaker in Tedesco's favor. After the vote, Goldman and Tedesco hugged.
If Goldman had voted earlier for Tedesco in the 30 previous times that he had gotten three votes, it would have come to an end earlier for the Republican majority.
Except for one joke vote for Anne McLaurin, Tedesco voted for himself in every round.
Deborah Prickett cast most of her ballots for Tedesco. She voted a few times for herself of for Morrison.
Chris Malone voted for himself 18 times, primarily during the earlier rounds before. The rest of the time he backed Tedesco.
The four Democrats consistently voted for Keith Sutton during all 56 rounds. The one exception was in round 2 when Kevin Hill voted for Goldman, the only time in the evening when she had more than one vote.
The use of written ballots instead of voice votes or raising their hands meant members didn't know how the voting was going before school board attorney Ann Majestic finished tabulating the results each round.
The voting started with what would be the typical voting bloc with all four Democrats backing Sutton, Goldman voting for herself and the three eligible voting Republicans backing Tedesco.
In round 2, Hill backed Goldman. It was the only time Sutton had less than four votes all night. This made it three for Sutton, three for Tedesco and two for Goldman.
In round 3, Hill switched back to Sutton and Malone voted for himself to create a four-way race. Malone would never get more than one vote in any round. We're now at four for Sutton, two for Tedesco and one each for Goldman and Malone.
No votes changed in rounds four through seven.
In round 8, Prickett voted for herself to create a five-way race in which all four Republicans voted for themselves. So it's four for Sutton and one for Prickett, Malone, Goldman and Tedesco.
There was no change for the ninth round.
In round 10, Prickett went back to voting for Tedesco. This put it at four for Sutton, two for Tedesco and one for both Malone and Goldman.
In round 11, Prickett switched to Morrison. We're now ay four for Sutton and one for Tedesco, Malone, Morrison and Goldman.
There was no change in round 12.
In round 13, Prickett switched back to voting for herself. Tedesco voted for McLaurin, who had joked earlier that no one had voted for her yet. This was the only round that Tedesco didn't have a vote. This set things at four for Sutton and one for Prickett, Goldman, Malone and McLaurin.
In round 14, Prickett switched her vote to Morrison. Tedesco went back to voting for himself. This meant four for Sutton and one for Tedesco, Morrison, Goldman and Malone.
In round 15, Prickett and Malone voted for Tedesco. This reverted things back to the round one total of four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Goldman.
In round 16, Malone switched to voting for himself. This meant four for Sutton, two for Tedesco and one for Malone and Goldman.
After a 25-minute recess, round 17 was the same as the prior round.
In round 18, Goldman for the first time didn't vote for herself as she backed Morrison. This means four for Sutton, two for Tedesco and one for Malone and Morrison.
In round 19, Goldman switched back to herself. This put it at four for Sutton, two for Tedesco and one for Malone and Goldman
In round 20, Malone switched back to Tedesco. This put it at four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Goldman.
In round 21, Goldman voted for Morrison.This put it at four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Morrison.
In round 22, Goldman and Malone switched to voting for themselves. This put it at four for Sutton, two for Tedesco and one for Goldman and Malone.
In round 23, Goldman voted for Morrison and Malone voted for Tedesco. We're now at four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Morrison.
In round 24, Goldman voted for herself. It's back to four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Goldman. There was no change in round 25.
In round 26, Goldman voted for Morrison. It's four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Morrison.
In round 27, Goldman voted for herself for the now familiar four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Goldman. There were no changes for rounds 28 to 38.
In round 39, Goldman voted for Prickett. This made it four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Prickett.
In round 40, Goldman voted for herself. Malone still voted for Tedesco after circling his own name before crossing it out. It's four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Goldman.
In round 41, Goldman voted for Malone. It's four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Malone.
In round 42, Goldman and Malone voted for themselves. It's four for Sutton, two for Tedesco and one for Goldman and Malone.
In round 43, Malone went back to Tedesco. It's four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Goldman. There were no changes in rounds 44 though 47.
In round 48, Goldman voted for Malone. It's four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Malone.
In round 49, Goldman voted for herself. It's back to four for Sutton, three for Tedesco and one for Goldman. There was no change in round 50.
After a 26-minute recess, round 51 saw no change. That was repeated in rounds 52 thorough 55 before Goldman finally voted for Tedesco in round 56.
The early part of the voting saw laughter from board members about the situation. Several times cracks were made about whether someone wanted to go to the bathroom, a play on how Betty Lou Ward's unexcused restroom break allowed Tony Gurley to be elected as chairman of the board of commissioners in 2009.
It was pointed out that it had taken more than 100 votes in 2009, following the bathroom incident, for the commissioners to name Ward as vice chairwoman.
During one recess, Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, yelled out from the audience that they should quickly reconvene while some of the Republicans were out of the board room. Whether it was a joke or serious may depend on your point of view.
The frustration level rose as the voting dragged on.
At times, board members forgot to sign their names or make a choice on the ballots. If any of those non-votes were counted, Majestic said Sutton would have gotten a majority and won. But board members decided those non-votes were accidents and let their colleagues revote.
Margiotta at one point asked if they were obligated to have a vice chair. Majestic said yes.
Board members also asked if they could delay the vote to move on to the regular meeting. But Majestic said they have to complete the election of officers first.
This caused Margiotta to ask if there was anyway they could break the deadlock so they could get on with the regular meeting. He said he wasn't directing his request at any specific board members.
McLaurin asked if they could have joint vice chairs. Majestic said it would require suspending board policy, which would take a two-thirds votes.
At one point, Sutton said he was patient and waiting for someone to come over and vote for him. Malone, who was wearing a tie adorned with elephants, replied by quipping whether Sutton would change political parties.