Frustration was evident among candidates, elections officials and poll workers Friday when a recount for Tabor City Town Council was halted at the direction of the State Board of Elections (SBOE). While a recount for Sandyfield Town Council had been complete, officials would not reveal the results of that recount, except to say that the election still is tied.
The recount will resume Monday at 2 p.m.
The SBOE ordered the recount stopped when officials in Raleigh learned that the entire county board of elections was not present. Although all county board member were present when the board convened 16 minutes after its scheduled 10 a.m. stating time, member Kay Horne left just after 12 to embark on a long-planned family trip to the Washington, D.C. area. Just before 2 p.m., member JoAnn Garrell had to leave for a previously-scheduled medical appointment.
That left three members, Chairwoman Bonita Blakney, Bonnie Inman and Brenda Ebron, which constitutes a quorum of the board and everyone – board members, elections staff and candidates alike – believed that a quorum was all that was necessary to conduct business. However, Acting Elections Director Kathy Enzor and Blakney made the last of several calls to the SBOE to get guidance on a technical issue and officials in Raleigh told them the entire board had to be present for a recount and directed them to suspend the recount immediately.
A concerned Horne, by that time in Northern Virginia, said by phone that she would not have left the meeting if she’d had any idea that the full board needed to be present. Garrell offered before leaving for her medical appointment to reschedule the doctor’s visit, but both Horne and Garrell were advised to go ahead with their plans because a quorum remained.
Following the recessed meeting, a reporter encountered former longtime county elections board member Mack Ward at a Whiteville restaurant. Told what had happened, Ward confirmed that his experience had been that state law requires the entire membership of the board, not just a quorum, to be present for a recount to be held.
Board members Horne and Garrell weren’t the only involved parties who had to leave Friday’s session early. Tabor City Councilman Nelson Lee, who finished one vote behind challenger Ronnie Graham and who filed the request for a recount, had to leave the meeting about 3:30 because he needed to report to his employment in North Myrtle Beach. Earlier, Sandyfield Councilwoman Claudia Bray, who was tied with challenger Randolph Keaton for the third available council seat, had to leave for the airport to take a flight to Texas due to a family death. Both Bray and Keaton asked for a recount.
At the time the recount was suspended, partial results showed that Graham might have dropped an election day vote in Tabor City and that Lee might have gained a vote. Neither, however, was completely clear and neither was confirmed by elections staff. Those “might haves” scenarios could have Lee in a one a one-vote lead over Graham, or the outcome could be tied.
In the event of a tie, “casting of lots” will be held by state law.
Although she would not discuss vote numbers after Sandyfield’s recount, Enzor said it appears that Bray and Keaton are tied. A time for the “casting of lots” to break any ties will be scheduled following completion of Monday’s resumed Tabor City recount.
Monday’s recount resumption is scheduled contingent upon all board members being present. Horne confirmed Friday night that she would be back in the area by then and will be present. The other board members had earlier indicated they will be available Monday.