GOP contests Aiken vote

Staff WriterNovember 21, 2009 

— The Wake County Republican Party on Friday challenged pop singer Clay Aiken's vote in this fall's school board elections, prompting a hearing that could strip him of his registration.

The "American Idol" runner-up and graduate of Leesville Road High in Raleigh last week lambasted the victorious GOP-backed school board candidates as "selfish idiots."

Party Chairman Claude Pope said, however, the party's move is not meant to retaliate against Aiken, and should not be taken as a criticism of his comments. Rather, he said, the challenge is intended to wipe out confusion about voting laws. Aiken lives in a Chatham County mansion but remains on Wake's voting rolls at his mother's Raleigh address - the precinct where he voted in October.

"We're not looking to throw him in jail or anything," Pope said. "We just want him to be properly registered. He lives in Chatham County. He's got freedom of speech. He can speak whatever he wants to say."

Wake Elections Director Cherie Poucher said the board will schedule a county Board of Elections hearing to decide whether Aiken is a legal voter. It could refer the case to the state board, Poucher said, which could in turn submit the case to the District Attorney's Office for prosecution.

"This is the most unique school board election in 19 years," Poucher said.

The election triggered ferocious debate over Wake's diversity policy, long bus rides and frequent reassignments. When the votes were counted, it was a clean sweep for four GOP-backed opponents of the diversity policy, giving them a board majority.

In response to their victory, Aiken said on his blog that he hopes the new members will be quickly voted out of office.

Aiken could not be reached Friday, and his mother, Faye Parker, declined to comment on the GOP's move. Earlier this week, she described his "idiots" comment as a mistake.

"That was not a good thing to say," she said. "He's young. Sometimes you speak before you think. We all do it. Probably if he knew them, he would be their friend. That's how my son is."

'It smacks of politics'

Pope said Wake Republicans decided to file their challenge now because the election is still fresh in voters' minds. In a news release, he referred to a state statute that says voters lose their original voting status when they move to a new state or county and make it a permanent residence. Aiken, he said, could inadvertently educate the public through his dual residence.

Democratic strategist Perry Woods, who worked with several losing candidates' campaigns, said Aiken is likely in the clear. As long as he didn't vote in Chatham County, Woods said, he can name his mother's house as a permanent residence and be in the clear.

Aiken, the father of a 15-month boy, may do just that. Parker says Aiken hopes to one day send his child to Wake County schools.

Woods suggested other motives for Pope's challenge.

"It smacks of politics and sour grapes and sore winners," he said. "You guys won. Really? It is within their purview to challenge any voter, but I'm hard-pressed to imagine they would have done so if he hadn't expressed his opinion."

josh.shaffer@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4818

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