LUMBERTON — After final votes from last week’s municipal elections were tallied Wednesday morning during the canvass, a write-in candidate has taken a commission seat in Fairmont, at least one recount has been requested in a Pembroke council race, and two candidates for another Pembroke council seat are tied.
Robeson County elections officials finished the canvass — the process by which it is determined that all votes have been counted and tabulated correctly — for the Nov. 5 municipal elections after verifying all precinct votes, absentee votes and provisional votes. The three-member elections board on Tuesday also heard challenges on 47 ballots, to which Tiffany Peguise-Powers, secretary to the board, said, “We have never had, in my experience as a board member, this many challenges.”
While vote totals in most of the council and mayoral contests in the county’s 15 municipalities changed during the canvassing process, only in Fairmont was an outcome changed, and that possibility now exists in two Pembroke races.
In Pembroke, newcomer Channing Jones was the top vote getter with 307 out of six candidates for two available seats on the council. Incumbent Allen Dial, who is seeking his fifth four-year term, is now tied with Theresa Locklear, both with 300 votes. Locklear lost a bid for a council seat two years ago by seven votes.
The unofficial results had shown Dial being the highest vote getter with 304 votes. It’s now unclear how the tie will be broken between Dial and Locklear. according to elections officials.
“It’s all about honesty with me, so I’m going to ask for a recount,” Locklear said Wednesday.
A day earlier, Locklear said that she had brought a number of challenges before the board because for years candidates in Pembroke had been bringing in voters who are not residents of Pembroke to cast ballots during the one-stop, early voting period. She said few challenges had been made against this practice.
“We knew who was voting at the one-stop and we were already preparing those challenges to turn in on Election Day,” Locklear said. “Just talking to people, we knew some of these people were not staying at the addresses they used.
“People keep encouraging me and telling me not to give up, and I’m not,” she said. “I’m going to go all the way with this thing … . Regardless of the outcome, I ran a clean race and I have no regrets.”
Dial this morning said that he is not surprised by all of the challenges. He said there is a political machine in Pembroke working against him.
“I’m not surprised. This is all against me. They have been working against me for years,” he said. “I feel I’ve won this election and they are trying to steal it away from me.”
Dial said that he has officially asked the Board of Elections for a recount, as has Locklear.
In a race to fill the remaining two-year term of the late Pembroke Councilman Robert Williamson, Mitchell Lowry is leading former Councilman Larry McNeill by two votes, 265 to 263. Unofficial results had shown Lowry with a nine-vote margin, but after the canvass McNeill became eligible to request a recount, which he has done. No date has been set for the recount.
“I hope the recount will show a different result, in my favor, of course,” said McNeill, a former councilmember. “But either way, I will continue to support the town and do what I can to help the citizens of Pembroke. The Lord knows what’s best.”
Lowry said that he is confident.
“I feel OK. I’ve had a lot of congratulatory remarks,” Lowry said. “I ran a positive campaign and I’m going to remain positive.”
In Fairmont, incumbent Commissioner Kim Prevatte Ammons lost a re-election bid for one of three commission seats up for election. She came in fourth, with 384 votes, behind write-in candidate Monte McCallum, who received 440 votes.
The other two commission seats went to Amelia “Ann” McLean, with 520 votes, and Terry Evans, with 476 votes.
Even McCallum said Wednesday that he is surprised that his write-in campaign was so successful. He said that he had put up signs and campaigned throughout the community for about two and a half months.
“It was just the will of the people,” he said. “I had strong support in the community. It’s amazing to me that I was even able to be put into this position.”
Ammons could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Of the 47 challenges, the board rejected 20, while 27 votes were dismissed. All of the challenges considered by the board centered around a voter’s residency.
Among the more notable challenges, the Board of Elections considered the validity of votes cast by 14 people who said they live at Turner Mobile Home Park in Lumberton.
The board determined that the residents used property rental agreements as identification to register for one-stop voting. Such agreements are not considered proper forms of identification and their votes were subtracted from the results. None of the residents attended the hearing to defend their eligibility to vote.
Similarly, a group of students from the Riverside Christian Academy who share a home in Lumberton registered for one-stop voting using the same lease agreement. The permanency of their residency in Lumberton was brought into question, but the students maintained that Lumberton was their home.
All but one of the players attended the hearing, and the challenges against the nine students in attendance were rejected. The challenge against the absent student was sustained.