Barry Saunders

Saunders: Candidates sling charges and hash in Lumberton election dispute

Incumbent Leon Maynor, right, won the Lumberton City Council Precinct 7 seat in November by one vote over Laura Sampson, left. The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into accusations that Maynor paid people to vote for him.
Incumbent Leon Maynor, right, won the Lumberton City Council Precinct 7 seat in November by one vote over Laura Sampson, left. The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into accusations that Maynor paid people to vote for him. Photos courtesy The Robesonian

This is a stain on the democratic process.

The only question is, “Is it a gravy stain or that special Jalapeno cheddar sauce?”

Lumberton City Councilman Leon Maynor, his opponent Laura Sampson complained to the State Board of Elections, paid voters to cast their ballot for him last year.

“I don’t know that it was cash,” Sampson was quoted as saying last week, “but people were paid.”

Maynor accused Sampson of the same thing in 2007, but he knew exactly what she allegedly offered citizens for their vote: vouchers for vittles. Sampson, Maynor maintained, supplied supporters with coupons to the Huddle House restaurant.

Maynor denied Sampson’s accusation that he bought votes, but the State Board of Elections thought the charge had enough merit to send its investigator’s findings to the SBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. As reported recently in The N&O, questions about some ballots prompted the state board to order a new election on March 15.

Sampson and Maynor have thrice jousted at the polls, with Maynor prevailing each time. He led by one vote after November’s election, and they finished tied initially after the ’07 election.

Laugh if you want to – and who doesn’t want to? – but when two candidates are equally popular among the electorate (both received 215 votes in 2007 before Maynor won the special election) it may only take a Huddle Up Sampler with batter-dipped dill pickles to tip the scales in an election or, if you eat enough of them, in the bathroom.

The judge who ruled on the hash house vouchers in 2009 said there were “signs of impropriety,” but there was no proof that Sampson knew about the bribe or which election Sampson’s representatives bribed. She was, you see, running simultaneously for city council and Lumbee Tribal Council.

If you’re anything like me, after you finish laughing, you weep for our country to think that someone would trade their sacrosanct ballot for a $5-off coupon from Huddle House.

Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and other Founding Fathers are probably crying out “Couldn’t you at least have sold your votes for coupons to Denny’s or Waffle House?”

At least at Waffle House, you know the waitress will call you “honey.”

The amount of voter fraud uncovered in North Carolina is miniscule, and the real reason the Republican-led legislature tries to keep people out of voting booths by erecting roadblocks is because they know that fewer and fewer people are buying what they’re selling.

Instead of requiring IDs to ensure that voters are who they say they are, state officials should be following the people holding signs that say “Will vote for food,” checking voters’ fingers for gravy stains or smelling their breath for evidence of recently consumed mozzarella cheese sticks. If that is too intrusive – and knowing this legislature, nothing is – the board of elections could peruse ballots for tell-tale chicken tender crumbs or gravy smudges before tossing them out.

A former Georgia governor, Marvin Griffin, admitted trying to buy votes with victuals in the early 1960s. His biography is titled “Some of the People Who Ate My Barbecue Didn’t Vote For Me.”

Neither Griffin nor Sampson ended up in the Big House for their admitted and alleged electoral misdeed. That’s why Sampson, when she writes her autobiography, could call it “Some of the People Who Ate My Big House Breakfast Platter from Huddle House Didn’t Vote For Me.”

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