Wed Sep 23, 2020

Protest of sheriff’s election still pending in Wake court

Protester Gloria Smith responds after attorney Boyd Worley, representing Jody Greene, asks her a question during a board of elections. Staff file photo by Justin Smith.
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Although Jody Greene has been actively serving as sheriff of Columbus County since the county board of elections, on orders from the N.C. State Board of Elections (SBOE), certified him as the winner on November’s general election over Lewis Hatcher, an appeal seeking to have a new election ordered is still pending in Wake County Superior Court with no indication of when the case might be heard.

Republican Greene defeated Hatcher, the incumbent Democrat, by 37 votes on Nov. 3, but his certification of election was delayed while appeals were heard at both the local and state levels contesting Greene’s status as a resident of Columbus County. Although the county board of elections ruled 3-2 on April 4 that Greene did not meet residency requirements, that decision was overturned by the SBOE on May 6. The SBOE voted 4-1 that Greene lives in Columbus County and, in a separate 3-2 vote, overturned the county board’s earlier decision and ordered the county board to certify Greene’s election.

Gloria Smith, vice chair of the Columbus County Democratic Party, who had been one of the original protesters challenging the election results, appealed the SBOE decision to Wake County Superior Court. While that court denied Smith’s request that Greene’s certificate of election not be issued until a full hearing could be held, it has yet to hear arguments on the main protest. Smith’s protest asks the court to determine that the recreational vehicle that Greene says is his residence does not satisfy the definition of a domicile in North Carolina and asks the court to reverse the SBOE decision and order that a new election be conducted for Columbus County sheriff.

“I haven’t heard anything,” Smith said Friday afternoon. “The attorneys are handling that. I’m just leaving it up to my lawyers.”

Smith is represented by Whiteville attorney Oscar M. Blanks III, Durham attorney Ralph K. Frazier Jr. and Cary lawyer Irvin Joyner, a former dean of the School of Law at N.C. Central University. Greene is represented by Tabor City attorney Boyd Worley and by Philip Isley of Raleigh.

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Neither Blanks, Frazier nor Joyner had responded by Monday morning to a request for an update on the status of the case. Worley said Friday that he has filed a motion asking the court to dismiss Smith’s appeal, but that he has not yet received a copy of the response that would need to be filed by Smith’s lawyers before the court could rule on his motion.

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