Last week’s primary election results were certified by the state Tuesday following a canvass by the Sampson Board of Elections, which denied a request for a recount in the sheriff’s race and was expected to do the same in the District 1 race should one be received, as both were decided by a greater difference than the 1 percent required by N.C. law.
No outcomes changed as a result of the canvass, with just a few votes from several absentee and provisional ballots added from last Tuesday’s tallies. Local elections officials also addressed a ballot snafu at one of the precincts, which they said was fixed and had no bearing on the outcome of the District 5 commissioner race.
That race was the only local contested race where recounts were not discussed Tuesday.
In the notable contested races locally, Freddie Butler’s tally grew by one vote in the Democratic sheriff’s primary, while David Kidd’s increased by two, to 1,681 and 1,507, respectively, meaning the percentages remained unchanged — Butler’s 52.75 percent to Kidd’s 47.25 percent.
Kidd submitted a request to the Board of Elections Monday for a recount to be conducted. Board of Elections director Ashley Tew said she consulted with state elections officials and was told that, with the total difference between the sheriff’s candidates standing at 5.5 percent, it was nowhere near close enough to justify counting votes again.
“He should not be allowed a recount,” Tew said, relaying what she was told. “According to the state, his exact words are there is no way (Kidd) is entitled to a recount, and for (the District 1 race, he said) ‘I’m sorry, not entitled to a recount.’”
“A recount will not change anything with that,” Board of Elections chairman Ted Lockerman interjected, speaking about the sheriff’s race. “I can tell you that. They’re only legally entitled to a recount if it was 1 percent or less.”
In the District 1 race, the votes remained the same through the canvassing, with Republican Clark Wooten winning by 27 votes, garnering 662 votes to fellow challenger Danny Jackson’s 635. That equated to 51.04 percent for Wooten, compared to Jackson’s 48.96 percent in the narrowest of local races on election night.
“It’s 2.08 percent,” said Tew. “It’s a difference of 27 votes, but according to the state, that also goes over the 1 percent law. The (election law) book states that 1 percent and over are not entitled to a recount. Of course, 27 votes, you would think that would be close enough to do a recount. We told (Jackson) if he wanted to request one, he had all rights to request it. The discretionary recount is what we thought would allow it, but the state says if they deny, we can’t allow.”
Board of Elections member Horace Bass said he felt that, if the totals did not fall within 1 percent of each other, the local board should not pursue a recount in either case.
“That’s my feeling for both of them,” Bass remarked, “because you can’t do it for one and not do it for the other.”
The Board of Elections unanimously denied Kidd’s request for a recount. No such decision was able to be made on a second recount request, as none was officially submitted. Tew said Jackson, who has told the Elections office of his intention to officially request a recount, has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to submit it.
In the District 5 race, incumbent Albert Kirby’s vote total grew by one vote to 624. He took 64 percent of the vote in soundly defeating challenger Eugene Pearsall, who amassed 352 votes, or 36 percent.
At Tuesday’s canvassing, local Democratic Party chairwoman Tomeka Blue asked about reports of people receiving the wrong ballots at the Southwest Clinton precinct. In one case, Blue said she heard that two members from the same household were given different ballots at the precinct, located at the Clinton Fire station on Wall Street.
“We pulled together the numbers on that, and though there was a mistake, if it went one way or the other it would not change anything,” Lockerman asserted. “There was too much of a spread between Kirby and Pearsall.”
As soon as local elections officials were informed of the situation, Tew said, they addressed it.
“We went through every voter who had voted — there were 63 that were affected, and it was fixed then,” she informed. “The people who voted in the end of the afternoon received the correct ballot. It was determined it only affected 63 people. Had the race been closer, there would have been issues. However, there was such a big gap that Mr. Kirby was fine and the state was satisfied.”
There has been an incident report filed with the N.C. Board of Elections, which agreed that the gap was too large to make any difference but told Sampson County to avoid similar mishaps.
“It will not happen again,” Tew attested.
“I think we can assure you that, at least in that precinct, it will not happen again,” Lockerman added.
Tew said there has been a great deal of misinformation in the past week about who received the wrong ballots.
“Of the people I have seen on social media, I have researched and they are either not the correct party (Democrat) to have voted for the sheriff or one of the commissioners they said they did not get, or they are not registered voters, period. So I don’t know where they came up with what they have to say,” the elections director said. “They are either the wrong party or the wrong precinct. I don’t think a lot of people understand that it is not the general election so everyone doesn’t get the same people on the ballot. It’s a primary.”
Blue said she understood that some were misinformed, but conceded that she was “alarmed” by the reports out of the Southwest Clinton precinct. Blue lauded the Elections employees for their quick action in rectifying the situation, but implored them to avoid a repeat occurrence.
“I wouldn’t want any other person to be disenfranchised by not getting the right ballot. That’s not fair to the voters and it makes them feel like their vote really doesn’t count, and that will impact us later on in November,” Blue stated. “As long as we’ve got that cleaned up and it’s cleared up, I’m OK with it.”
“I’m sure it will not happen at Southwest Clinton again and I do not think it will happen anywhere else,” Tew replied. “I hope not.”
Longtime Elections director Sylvia Thornton said it was a case of all new workers at that precinct, aside from one person who had experience.
“And a scanner didn’t work to start with, and those scanners are headaches,” Lockerman added. “That probably precipitated the whole problem.”
Tew said she hoped to find more experienced help to prevent such problems in the future.
“That’s my goal,” she said.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.