Five towns in North Carolina will repeat last year’s election when voters head to the polls for the March 15 primary.
The State Board of Elections ruled this week in favor of municipal election challenges in Benson, Trinity, Lumberton, Pembroke and Ahoskie. In each of those towns, a second-place town council candidate complained of possible election law violations that could have cost them the election.
The board’s general counsel, Josh Lawson, said board members found “evidence of irregularities sufficient to cast doubt on the outcome.”
Several of the complaints involved voters who were ruled ineligible. In Trinity – a few miles outside High Point – two city council candidates were tied with 168 votes each. The board ruled that one of the voters, a former council member, had sold her Trinity home and moved to Morehead City, so she couldn’t participate.
State law calls for a new election if officials find an election law violation that could swing the outcome. The county election board holds an initial hearing on complaints; the state board gets the final say and schedules a new vote.
In Ahoskie, a couple of hours northeast of Raleigh, the board overturned a ruling by the Hertford County Board of Elections.
In a three-page, handwritten appeal to the state board, Ahoskie Town Council candidate Donald Kirkland argued that his opponent, Maurice Vann, doesn’t live in the district he represents.
Kirkland’s complaint describes a heated election board hearing in Hertford County, in which Vann accused his challenger of “stalking” him at his residence. Kirkland said the county board mistakenly ruled that Vann didn’t need to live in the district, but that provision of state law only applies to legislative and congressional seats.
The Hertford elections board, Kirkland said, “created an air of hostility that permeated during the hearing.” Vann has said he has a bedroom in two homes in Ahoskie, one of which is in his district.
For the new election March 15, Vann is ineligible to file, and other candidates who live in the district have until Thursday afternoon to file.
Benson’s election problems were the fault of local elections officials. An investigation found that 37 voters were given ballots for the wrong town commissioner district. Curtis Dean McLamb, who lost by seven votes, argued that the mistake cost him the election because some of his supporters voted in the wrong race.