Irregularities found in Pembroke election; town to vote anew in 2014

pgannon@ncinsider.comDecember 27, 2013 

— Voters in the Robeson County town of Pembroke will go to the polls a second time to elect town council members after the State Board of Elections found many “irregularities” in the November election and ordered a new vote.

In a written order released Friday, the state board found that problems “occurred to such an extent in this election that they tainted the results of all the Pembroke municipal elections and cast doubt upon their fairness.” A new election in 2014 was the only appropriate remedy because of the seriousness and number of irregularities, the board found after a lengthy hearing at its meeting last week. It was unclear Friday if a date has been set for the new election.

The state board also will forward to the Robeson County district attorney information about the Nov. 5 election that the state board and its staff believe warrants further investigation, according to the order signed this week by Josh Howard, state board chairman.

Pembroke, a town of about 3,000 residents and the home of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, is about 100 miles south of Raleigh. On the ballot there last year were two seats for four-year terms on the town council and one seat to fill a vacancy. Candidates Allen Dial and Theresa Locklear tied at 299 votes for the second available seat, and both Dial and Locklear filed election protests heard by the Robeson County Board of Elections in late November, according to the order. The Robeson board found election problems, which were referred to the state board.

According to its order, the state board found that:

•  At least eight voters improperly voted one-stop absentee.

•  Nine young men associated with a basketball program used improper identification – a private lease – as proof of residence to register at same-day voter registration at the Robeson board of elections. However, Robeson board staff “incorrectly accepted such documentation” and allowed the basketball players to vote, according to the order.

•  Some voters might not have used their current residences for voting and were encouraged by others to use different addresses.

Don Wright, general counsel to the state board, said with about 550 municipal elections held every odd-numbered year in North Carolina, the decision to force a new election in Pembroke isn’t highly unusual, especially because local elections often can be decided by few votes.

Patrick Gannon writes for the NCInsider.com, a government news service owned by The News & Observer. For more information, visit www.ncinsider.com.

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