Narrow South Ward win leads to recount; June primary rules set

Narrow South Ward win leads to recount; June primary rules set
March 31
00:00 2016
South Ward candidate Carolyn Highsmith tries to figure out if she won the tight South Ward race during the Board of Elections canvas meeting on Thursday.

Candidates say tight race shows flaws in the system



“Does that mean I won?” asked Carolyn Highsmith after the Board of Elections approved the official results of the primary election.

Indeed, after hours of waiting for provisional ballots to be tabulated during the BOE meeting on Thursday, March 24, it did turn out that Highsmith pulled off an extremely narrow victory over her opponent, John Larson, in the Democratic primary for the South Ward City Council seat. The final numbers were Highsmith, with 2,029 votes to Larson’s 2,023 votes. Larson shook Highsmith’s hand congratulating her, but the victory is still potentially tentative. Since the six-vote victory is less than one percent, Larson applied for a recount on Monday, which the BOE is expected to be complete this week.

“We will make sure that all due diligence is spent to ensure that the proper votes are counted,” said Larson.

Highsmith said she considers herself the winner and was thankful for all her supporters in the South Ward.

“We had a lot of people in the South Ward who wanted to see me win because they know what I represent, they know I’m going to represent the South Ward to the very best of my ability,” she said.

But Highsmith also said she supported the recount. Both candidates patiently sat through the canvas process on Tuesday and Thursday of last week, watching the board approve and disapprove votes. After the canvas, both agreed that they had questions and concerns about the process they witnessed.  Highsmith said that there were residents who cast ballots that weren’t counted and it was unknown who would’ve gotten those votes had they been accepted.

“It’s a very flawed system right now and we’ve got to clean it up,” she said.

On Tuesday, 101 absentee ballots that came in the day after election day were discounted because they didn’t have a postmark, which statute requires. On Thursday, of the 961 provisional ballots that were considered, 592 were rejected.

Voter ID was a small portion of provisionals, with all nine reasonable impediment provisionals accepted. Only 39 provisionals were rejected because voters cast their ballot without an ID and failed to produce an ID to the BOE afterwards.

Other provisional rejections included 151 out-of-precinct votes that had no signature, 157 ballots by people who weren’t registered to vote and 194 ballots by people who weren’t registered to vote but also didn’t provide a signature. Statute requires a signature on provisional ballots and poll workers were trained to get voter signatures even when the signature line didn’t print out, which BOE Director Tim Tsujii said happened numerous times. Tsujii said his office will be examining the software that produced the ballots. Tsujii will also be offering his full review of election performance and recommendations for improvements in the next BOE meeting in April.

During the comment period on Thursday, Larson’s supporters lamented the lack of parking at one precinct in the South Ward and that several voters didn’t have the South Ward race on their ballot. Tsujii said the BOE found there were 18 people who were given the wrong party ballot in the South Ward. Larson compared the canvas process to watching sausage being made.

“I think there are real questions about people being disenfranchised and if it hadn’t been for the closeness of this election, it would have just been buried under the carpet,” said Larson.

The victor of the South Ward primary will face Republican Michael Tyler in November.

Also during the meeting, the board approved Early Voting plans for the June 7 primary, which will feature races for the U.S. House of Representatives and one seat on the N.C. Supreme Court. Early voting will be at the BOE offices in the Forsyth County Government Building on Thursday, May 26, Friday, May 27 and Tuesday, May 31 through Friday, June 3 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m and Saturday, June 4, from 10 Many have filed to run in the second primary, with the new District 13, which stretches from Guilford into Davie and Iredell Counties, having the most challengers with 22 candidates. Alma Adams is running for reelection in the 12th District, which is now entirely in Mecklenburg County. Her Democratic primary challengers are Gardenia Henley of Winston-Salem, Rick Miller of Summerfield, former state senator Malcolm Graham and state lawmakers Rodney Moore, Tricia Cotham and Carla Cunningham. Republicans vying for the seat are Leon Threatt, Paul Wright and Ryan Duffie.

Locally, for the Fifth District, Virginia Foxx will face Pattie Curran and B. Mark Walker in the Republican primary. Democrats Jim Roberts, Charlie Wallin, and Josh Brannon, who Foxx defeated in 2014, are also running for the seat. N.C. Justice Robert Edmunds is facing Daniel Robertson, Michael Morgan and Sabra Faires in the judicial primary.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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