LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Elections on Thursday set March 11 as the date for a new Pembroke Town Council election and unanimously agreed to hire former state Rep. G.L. Pridgen as the board’s new director.
The state Board of Elections on Dec. 20 ordered that a new election for the Pembroke Council be held and that all allegations of possible voter fraud be handed over to the local District Attorney’s Office to see if criminal charges are warranted.
“We want to hold a competent election and make it possible for everyone who wants to participate be able to do so,” Steve Stone, the chairman of the county Board of Elections, said. ” … We are seeking the advice and consent of the state as we move forward with this election. We want the state to know what we are doing and watch us do a good job.”
Stone said that the election will follow election laws that became effective Jan. 1. The biggest change from the November election, he said, is that early one-stop voting will be reduced to 10 days and voters will not be permitted to register to vote and vote on the same day during the early voting period. All eligible voters can participate, not just those who cast ballots on Nov. 5.
Stone said that another major change in elections laws, no straight ticket voting, will not affect the new Pembroke election because it is a non-partisan election. No straight-ticket voting, he said, won’t become effective until the General Election in November.
Early voting for the March election will begin on Feb. 27 and close on March 8, the Saturday before the election. According to the board’s plan, early voting will be held in Pembroke at the Pembroke Public Library.
Those Pembroke residents who want to register to vote in the election can do until Feb. 14.
The new election will affect three council seats, two of which are four-year terms, and one unexpired two-year term. November results appear to have given the one four-year seat to high-vote getter Channing Jones, a challenger, while incumbent Allen Dial, who was seeking his fifth term, and challenger Teresa Locklear tied for the second four-year seat. Dial won a draw of a card for the seat, but the county Board of Elections, after hearing allegations of fraud, sent the matter to the state board for its consideration.
In the race for the remainder of the two years on the term of Robert Williamson, who died in early 2012 shortly after taking office in early 2012, Mitch Lowry appeared to win election by four votes over former Pembroke Councilman Larry McNeill.
The board members voted unanimously to hire Pridgen at a yearly salary of $52,000. No date was given for Pridgen to start his new job.
Since Jan. 1, 2013, following the retirement of Dock Locklear, Tina N. Bledsoe has been serving as the board’s interim director. Bledsoe has been a Board of Elections employee for 15 years, serving as a computer technician before being tapped to lead the department.
Pridgen, a Republican, represented House District 46, which includes parts of Robeson County, during 2011 and 2012. He lost his bid for a second two-year term when he was defeated by Democrat Ken Waddell in the November 2012 General Election.
Pridgen owns and operates Pridgen Communication Consulting Company Inc., which he founded after serving his two years in the state House.
Stone said that Pridgen is a good choice.
“As a member of the General Assembly, he was involved in establishing some of the new election laws that are going into effect beginning in 2014,” Stone said.