LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Elections found cause Thursday to hold a formal hearing to determine if James Worley lives in Precinct 5 and can run to represent it on the City Council.
The three-member Board of Elections held a preliminary hearing on what may disqualify Worley as a candidate after receiving a 47-page petition from John Cantey, who has held that seat since 2005. Cantey claims Worley lives in Precinct 3 and produced, among other evidence, a recent court document signed by Worley claiming an address on McPhail Road, outside Precinct 5.
However, the board was unable to set a date for the hearing. The three-member board will meet Tuesday in a regularly sheduled meeting and will continue to discuss the case and the law. Meanwhile, Worley was nowhere to be seen.
Attempts by the Board of Elections staff to contact Worley by regular and certified mail failed.
Meanwhile, the countdown to the Nov. 7 election is on. The ballot has been printed and early voting begins on Thursday. Sammie Love is also a candidate in Precinct 5, and attended the hearing.
After a careful reading of the general statute, the board found that a full hearing “shall” be held after the election. However, the board will seek advice from the state Board of Elections and attempt to locate Worley in person.
“I am hoping Mr. Worley will withdraw,” Cantey said. “It’s not right or fair for this candidate to remain on the ballot.”
Steve Stone, chairman of the Elections Board, was unhappy that the election may move forward with a questionable candidate.
“I wish I knew what the General Assembly intended when they wrote this law,” Stone said. “Now, we have a protest hanging over the election.”
But member Tiffany Powers said, “The law is clear.”
Stone may yet get a resolution before the election if Worley is willing to make his case early or resigns as Cantey hopes.
The board indicated the case against Worley is strong, and its members were unanimous in voting for a formal hearing that would require witnesses to testify under oath and a transcript.
Powers noted Cantey may challenge Worley’s vote on election day also on the grounds he does not live in Precinct 5.
Worley owns several rental properties on Eighth and Ninth streets on Lumberton’s eastside. In his filing for office, he claimed one of those residences as his home.