Benson voters elected a town board last November. They’ll do so again on March 15.
Last week, the State Board of Elections ruled in favor of a challenge to one outcome of the Nov. 3 Board of Commissioners election in Johnston County’s southernmost town.
In the District 2 race, Curtis Dean McLamb, 38, lost to incumbent Commissioner John Bonner by seven voters. But McLamb challenged the outcome, saying some voters who wanted to cast their ballots for him didn’t get the chance.
On election day, a couple of McLamb’s friends and relatives who live in District 2 said they didn’t see his name on their ballots. McLamb started questioning his neighbors, and some said they experienced the same problem. The final vote was 85-78.
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After McLamb raised a red flag, an investigation by Johnston County elections supervisor Leigh Ann Price showed that 37 Benson voters cast ballots in the wrong district, more than enough to change the outcome in District 2,
At a meeting on Nov. 19, the Johnston Board of Elections recommended that the state board authorize a second District 2 election in Benson. The problem was that the county elections office had not updated its map of Benson’s voting districts.
In an email right after the election, Town Manager Matt Zapp said Benson last redrew the boundaries of its voting districts after a large-scale annexation in July 2008. Election law requires voting districts to be roughly equal in population, so Benson updates its voting districts if necessary after each census and annexation, Zapp said.
After the 2008 annexation, Zapp said, Benson forwarded its new district boundaries to the Johnston County Board of Elections, along with a request for the elections office to notify Benson voters affected by the changes.
But that never happened. Price, the elections supervisor, said her office never received the changes.
Last week, the State Board of Elections found “evidence of irregularities sufficient to cast doubt on the outcome,” said Josh Lawson, the board’s general council.
State law calls for a new election if officials find an election-law violation that could swing the outcome.
In his election protest, McLamb highlighted the names of 102 voters who should have been in District 2 but were not.
“It would make a difference if they were voting in the right area,” he said.
McLamb, a senior service specialist with Piedmont Natural Gas, said he ran because he’s always been politically conscious and has some ideas for good changes in his town. He wants to bring more business to Benson, add bleachers and restrooms at town ball fields and reduce turnover in the police department.