LUMBERTON — With the holidays here, it will now be the beginning of the new year before a determination is made of who are the winners in the Pembroke mayoral and Lumberton Precinct 7 elections held more than six weeks ago.
According to Josh Lawson, general counsel for the State Board of Elections, a hearing on the Pembroke mayoral race will not be heard until January.
“I don’t know when the hearing will be held. It possibly could be in early January,” Lawson said. “The board has given no indication to when it might hold the hearing.”
At a protest hearing on Nov. 30, the Robeson County Board of Elections found there was evidence to believe that election laws had been violated or other irregularities had occurred that were sufficiently serious to cast doubt on the results of the election. The board then voted to send the results of the hearing to the state.
Greg Cummings, who finished second in the four-way race for Pembroke mayor, 11 votes behind Allen Dial, had filed an election protest that included challenging the residencies of 24 voters. At the hearing, Cummings was able to show 11 of the challenged voters were ineligible to vote because they did not live at the addresses they gave when they cast their ballots.
Some voters provided as an address at a commercial building Dial owns, but he denies any wrongdoing, saying he simply is helping out people down on their luck by providing them a place to live.
In the race to represent Precinct 7 on the Lumberton City Council, protests filed by both candidates, incumbent Leon Maynor and challenger Laura Sampson, will be heard by the Robeson County Board of Elections on Jan. 4. The hearing will be held at the Elections Board office at 800 N. Walnut St. in Lumberton.
Both Sampson and Maynor have submitted protests claiming that there were miscued ballots that cost them votes. At a recent preliminary protest hearing, the Board of Elections found there was sufficient evidence to support the protests.
Sampson contends that during a recent hand-to-eye recount of all votes cast in the Precinct 7 election that at least one ballot was counted as a vote for Maynor although the bubbles had been filled in next to both Maynor’s name and hers.
She insists that counting that vote for Maynor violates a state statute that reads “if it is impossible to clearly determine a voter’s choice in a ballot item, the official ballot shall not be counted for that ballot item.” Sampson says in her protest petition that it also violates a state statute that says “if an official ballot is marked in a ballot item with more choices than there are offices to be filled or propositions that may prevail, the official ballot shall not be counted for that ballot item.”
Sampson’s petition also argues that because there is a single vote separating her and Maynor, 282-281, the inclusion of the vote essentially makes Maynor the winner.
Maynor’s protest says that during the precinct-wide recount a ballot was found to have the circles beside each candidate’s name to be equally darkened. He cited a state statute that reads “if it is impossible to clearly determine a voter’s choice in a ballot item, the official ballot shall not be counted for that ballot item, but shall be counted in all other ballot items in which the voter’s choice can be clearly determined.”
Maynor says that the ballot should be removed from Sampson’s vote total. He is also questioning a vote cast during one-stop voting and the procedures used by the Board of Elections to challenge the ballot.
It is the third time that Maynor has faced Sampson in the Precinct 7 race.
A recount in 2007 showed Maynor and Sampson tied, and Maynor won a do-over election. Sampson also lost a challenge to Maynor in 2011.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.