South Ward to get a new primary

South Ward to get a new primary
April 06
00:00 2016
Photo by Todd Luck
John Larson speaks during the preliminary heading on his election protest on Friday, April 1.

By Todd Luck

The Chronicle

The N.C. State Board of Elections, after a nearly two hour hearing, decided on Wednesday, April 6 that a new election will be held in the South Ward on June 7.

John Larson, a City Council candidate in the South Ward Democratic primary, filed a protest with the Forsyth County Board of Elections in the late afternoon on Tuesday, March 29.  Larson came out just six votes behind his opponent, Carolyn Highsmith, and originally asked for a recount. Larson’s protest involved 26 voters who were given the wrong ballot in the ward and other irregularities.

The Forsyth BOE met on Friday, April 1, to consider the motion. The BOE, with Fleming El-Amin participating via conference call, voted unanimously that the complaint about the voters who were given the wrong ballot had probable cause.

“With a very close election like this, it doesn’t take very many irregularities to trigger a protest and have probable cause,” said Board Member Stuart Russell.

Russell added that it didn’t reflect badly on the staff and praised new election Director Tim Tsuji, who started two weeks before the primary, for his transparency. The board voted unanimously to give the state immediate jurisdiction in the matter since time is of the essence.

One possible remedy allowed by statute – for the 26 voters who were given the incorrect ballot without the South Ward race on it to recast their ballots – would have had to have  been done by two weeks after canvas, which is today.

Forsyth BOE Chair Ken Raymond also said the irregularities, though they are something the BOE tries to avoid, don’t reflect badly on the election overall.

Larson also said he didn’t believe the mistakes were malfeasance on the part of BOE staff.

“Clearly it’s a blip that was caught … and we have the opportunity to correct it,” he said.

The remedy the N.C. BOE went with was to hold a new primary. Larson said last week that if that happened, he hoped it would be  during the June 7 Primary. Holding the primary again would be the only way to remedy the other parts of Larson’s complaint, which alleged that voters who arrived after the polls closed got to vote.

Highsmith said last week that while she supported her opponent’s right to a recount, she disagreed with his protest. She said that there were irregularities, but that the BOE addressed them during canvas and she hoped would correct them in the November General Election.

The Chronicle will have more on this breaking story in next week’s edition. The winner of the South Ward Democratic primary will face Republican Michael Tyler in November.


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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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