McCoy files lawsuit against Forsyth County Board of Elections

McCoy files lawsuit against Forsyth County Board of Elections
September 09
14:24 2020

Paula McCoy, the unaffiliated candidate running for a seat on the Winston-Salem City Council, has filed a lawsuit against the Forsyth County Board of Elections for their handling of the petition process. 

To appear on the ballot during the Nov. 3 election, McCoy had to secure 281 signatures from registered voters in the Northeast Ward. Initially McCoy was told that she had enough signatures to appear on the ballot, but all that changed. Just minutes before the deadline on Aug. 5, McCoy received word that some of her signatures were invalid. 

In the lawsuit filed on Thursday, Sept. 3, McCoy says the decision to de-certify her petition was based on Barbara Burke, the Democratic candidate for the ward, visiting the board of elections office and challenging some of the names. McCoy argues that in response to Burke’s “unlawful challenge,” a formal hearing should have been held. In the suit, McCoy has asked that a preliminary hearing be held and that she is re-certified and added to the ballot. 

When first contacted by the board of elections, McCoy was told that she was only one signature short of reaching her goal of 281, and she asked if she could have time to get a valid signature. Although she was told ‘Yes,’ McCoy said when she submitted the names to the county attorney, she was told that the rules had changed. “I was informed that the rules had changed. I now had 15 days in order to recertify all of my petitions,” McCoy said. In the end, the board of elections reported that McCoy had 261 signatures. 

According to Tim Tsujii, director of the Forsyth County Board of Elections (FCBOE), the software used to verify the signatures didn’t have the capability to determine in which ward someone lived, but they didn’t know that at the time. Although the FCBOE has admitted to errors on their part concerning the petition process, there is no appeal process in place, so there is no recourse for McCoy except to run as a write-in candidate.

When discussing the lawsuit with The Chronicle last week, McCoy said the process is flawed and she was amazed at how people can just make up rules as they go and change those rules whenever they get ready. She said, “I am challenging the process that they went through because based on statute, that should have been handled totally different.” 

McCoy said she has submitted a notice of the lawsuit filed to the Forsyth County Board of Elections, Forsyth County Commissioners, and the N.C. State Board of Elections.

“I have been disenfranchised and the voters in this ward have been disenfranchised,” McCoy continued. “They need a choice, too, and removing me from the ballot does not give them a choice. I believe that the constituents in this ward don’t believe that someone should just walk in and take a seat based on a name. That seat does not belong to a family.” 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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