PEMBROKE — The Pembroke Town Council will get three new members as a long-time incumbent failed to win re-election on Tuesday and voters returned a former councilman to the board.
Voters turned out in high numbers for the state-ordered do-over election, reversing the outcome of last November’s general election that state election officials contend was tainted with voting irregularities and possible instances of fraud.
“I was hoping people would come out and make a statement, and they did,” said Theresa Locklear, the high-vote getter in a six-way race for two four-year council terms. “I’m the first woman elected to the council. I stood on my own two heels during the challenges and I’m still standing.”
Tuesday’s unofficial election results have Locklear as the high-vote getter and winner of one of two four-year contested council seats. The two contested seats are currently held by Allen Dial and Larry Brooks, who did not seek re-election.
The other four-year seat went to Channing Jones. Dial, seeking his fifth term, placed third in the six-way race for the two seats.
Locklear collected 393 votes, Jones received 382 votes and Dial got 278 votes. The other three candidates for the two four-year seats were Joseph Milton Locklear, 64 votes, Chris Lowry, 32 votes and John D. Campbell, 12 votes,
In the race to complete the remaining two years of the term of the late Councilman Robert Williamson, who died shortly after taking office in 2011, former Councilman Larry McNeill defeated MitchLowry. McNeill received 375 votes to Lowry’s 215.
The results will not be official until Tuesday when canvassing takes place and results are certified. Provisional ballots will be counted today at 5 p.m.
Tuesday’s special election was ordered by the state Board of Elections after a hearing in Raleigh last December brought to light several voting irregularities that occurred during the November 2013 General Election. Most of the irregularities had to do with voters not meeting residency requirements.
The state Board of Elections requested at the December hearing that accusations of election fraud be turned over to the Robeson County District Attorney’s Office for investigation.
Steve Stone, chairman of the county’s three-member Board of Elections, said that no protests have been filed in regards to Tuesday’s election. Only two challenges to voter residencies were filed before Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline to do so.
Stone said that candidates still have three days after canvassing is complete to file any protests,
“The election went very smooth. There were not just eyes on every step of the process, but there were extra minds on the process,” Stone said. “We had a lot of assistance and guidance from the state Board of Elections.”
Stone said that there were “absolutely” none of the problems on Tuesday that had plagued the November general election. He attributed Tuesday’s successful election to it being the first election in the state using new election laws established by the General Assembly.
Stone confirmed that Marshall Tutor, an elections investigator with the state Board of Elections, spent Tuesday at the polls in Pembroke.
“He was here in his official capacity as an elections investigator with the state,” Stone said. “I can’t say if he was here investigating any specific allegations … , He was here observing and advising to make sure the election went smoothly.”
Jones said that the results of the election prove that Pembroke residents are looking for a change.
“People want to see additional prosperity in their town,” he said. “They want to see those in office who care for the community. They want business folks who can lead.”
McNeill attributed the good voter turnout to “people realizing the need to fix elections.” He said that in addition to wanting a change in the town’s direction, voters expressed their disapproval of an election process that allowed so many voting irregularities.
“I will do my very best … . Everyone may not agree with me all the time, but my decisions on issues will be made honestly,” McNeill said. “The residents of Pembroke deserve fair and honest government.”
Dial did not speak at length with a reporter, saying he did not like a recent story published in The Robesonian.
“The people have spoken. I’m moving on,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
In the November election, results gave one four-year seat to Jones, the high-vote getter, while Dial andLocklear tied for the second four-year seat. Dial won the seat by the draw of a card before the do-over election was ordered.
In the race for the remainder of the two years on the term of Williamson, November results had Lowry winning the election by four votes over McNeill.
Mayor Milton Hunt said this morning it’s unclear when the new members will be sworn in.