First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON - The county Board of Elections has selected March 11 - that month's second Tuesday - as the day to decide the allegedly-tainted and still-tied race for the Precinct 7 seat on the City Council.
The election will give 12-year incumbent Leon Maynor and his challenger, Laura Sampson, a second chance at the City Council seat that Maynor is keeping warm until the election is certified.
Dock Locklear, supervisor of the county Elections Office, said Thursday that date needs to be approved by the U.S. Justice Department in accordance with the civil rights laws, but that is expected to be a rubber stamp.
“I think both candidates want to see this election behind them,” Locklear said. “And by the same token we just want a fair, honest election.”
Locklear said that the election will include absentee voting and One-Stop Voting, but no new voters can register to cast ballots. Only those who were registered for Nov. 6 can cast ballots.
“I'm pleased with the new election date,” Maynor said. “I'm ready to start campaigning … getting out and sharing my same concerns. I feel that I represent what the citizens in West Lumberton would like to have in smart growth.”
Sampson has refused to speak with The Robesonian after it began questioning her about allegations of vote-buying. She has denied wrongdoing, but a criminal investigation into the allegations, which have been made by Maynor, continues.
Maynor has been criticial of One-Stop Voting, which he says is easily manipulated. In the first election, Sampson had about three times as many One-Stop votes as did Maynor.
“Naturally I think it's the worst thing to ever happen to people who have the right to vote,” Maynor said. “People don't really know what the issues are and aren't familiar with the candidates. People can be persuaded … there's almost no reason to have an election day when the election is almost determined with One-Stop Voting. The legislators need to look at it again … whether or not people are really aware of what the voting issues are.”
One-Stop Voting will begin on Feb. 21 and end on Saturday, March 8, at noon. Absentee ballots will be mailed Feb. 12.
Locklear estimates the election will cost between $3,500 to $5,000 - a pill city taxpayers will swallow.
There was a recount of the Nov. 6 election that showed each candidate with 214 votes, a tie that was to be resolved by a random method. However, the state Board of Elections, responding to allegations of a tainted election, ordered a new election.
“I hope that we have not only a good, fair election, but a large turnout,” said Gary Bartlett, the director of the State Board of Elections.
Maynor has alleged that $5 coupons that could be redeemed at the Huddle House on West Fifth Street were used to buy votes to unseat him. He also alleges that individuals who do not live in Precinct 7 illegally cast ballots.
In an interview with the Fayetteville Observer in December, Sampson's lawyer suggested the new election would end the criminal investigation.
“All of that goes away,” Marshall Hurley told The Observer. “From our standpoint, it wipes the slate clean.”
But state officials say the criminal investigation will continue. They will not give a timetable but say it could eventually include the district attorney offices in Wake and Robeson counties.
Sampson and her family members have denied any wrongdoing. The owner of the Huddle House, Dobbs Oxendine, has refused to return numerous phone calls from The Robesonian.