Elections appeal heard Friday
Pembroke race hinges on outcome
Bob Shiles Staff writer
RALEIGH — The state Board of Elections will hear appeals concerning the outcome of a Pembroke Council race on Friday, according to Don Wright, the state board’s general counsel.
The state board is scheduled to handle a number of election issues at the meeting that begins at 9 a.m. at the state Board of Elections Office at 441 N. Harrington St. in Raleigh.
Pembroke is among five municipalities from which the state board will hear protests. In addition to Pembroke, appeals are slated to be heard from Scotland Neck, Hope Mills, Sharpsburg and the Belfast-Patetown Sanitary District in Wayne County.
Pembroke is listed on the meeting agenda as the last appeal to be heard.
The three-member Robeson County Board of Elections on Nov. 22 determined that enough questionable ballots were cast in the Nov. 5 council race to justify requesting the state Board of Elections to decide how the outcome of the election should be determined. After two days of protest hearings, the race ended with incumbent Allen Dial and Teresa Locklear each receiving 299 votes.
Dial was declared the winner of the election after he drew a high card from a deck of cards. North Carolina law allows for a tie vote in an election to be determined by the casting of lots.
Steve Stone, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Elections, said that there were between nine and a dozen votes that could have been improperly cast, enough to possibly affect the outcome of the election.
All of the protests filed by Pembroke candidates centered around early voting and voters registering and casting a ballot on the same day.
Local elections officials say that the results of the protests could possibly change the outcome of results for the top three candidates in the six-candidate field for two seats. The top vote-getter was newcomer Channing Jones, with Dial and Locklear tied with the second highest number of votes.
It’s unclear if Friday’s hearing could affect the race to fill the remaining two years of the unexpired term of the late Councilman Robert Williamson. After a recount, newcomer Mitchell Lowry finished four votes ahead of former Pembroke Councilman Larry McNeill, 265 to 261 votes.
The local board has requested that the state consider the improperly cast votes that have been identified and have a “reconstruction election” using a process the state already has in place. In a reconstruction, the state board would review all of the evidence from the local hearings in an effort to determine if all of one-stop early votes were evaluated properly. The state could add votes to the local board’s count or deduct from the board’s count.
The state board also has other options, including calling for a re-election of just those who voted in the November election, or letting the election results stand.
Wright said Wednesday that transcripts of the local protest hearings, as well as other information related to the outcome of Pembroke’s election, have already been given to the five members of the state board for their review.
“They (board members) are not just going to sit down on Dec. 20 and decide what they want to do,” Wright said. “They will have already reviewed and studied the information surrounding this election.”
Wright also said that in order to call for a new election, four of the five members of the state board must be in agreement.
Joshua Malcolm, a former chairman of the Robeson County Board of Elections and a Pembroke resident, is currently sitting on the state Board of Elections. He is expected to participate in the state board’s review of all appeals that come before the board at the meeting. Both Malcolm and a state board spokesperson have said that there is no conflict of interest with Malcolm hearing the appeal from his hometown.
Wright told The Robesonian late last month that election appeals are down this year.
“Elections went well this year,” Wright said. “The number of appeals on these municipal elections are down from previous years.”
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