The Halifax County Board of Elections today dismissed a protest alleging incumbent Scotland Neck Mayor Eddie Braxton distributed campaign material in violation of state election laws.
The decision was unanimous.
The protest was filed by Casper Edmonds and claimed Braxton, who defeated challenger James Mills in last week’s municipal elections, distributed advertising which required a legend stating paid for by the candidate on the material. He claimed it “cast doubt on the fairness of the November 5, 2019 election and their vote totals for mayor and town commissioners.”
The Scotland Neck town commissioner race contained a large field of challengers where seven people sought to unseat incumbent board members James Gunnells, Charlie Shields and Raymond Watson.
The materials which were passed out, according to a copy obtained this morning, were a flyer with the header of “Every Vote Counts” and a subhead saying “Keep Scotland Neck moving in the right direction!”
It promoted Braxton, Watson, Shields and Gunnells and contained a sample ballot with the names of the incumbent mayor and three incumbent commissioners premarked.
The state law the protest cited was one governing sample ballots and that they should be given an appearance clearly distinguishing them from official ballots.
The statute also says a “document resembling an official ballot (is) to contain (a) disclaimer” which states “no person other than a board of elections shall produce or disseminate a document substantially resembling an official ballot unless the document contains on its face a prominent statement that the document was not produced by a board of elections and is not an official ballot.”
The premarked ballots with the names of the incumbents also had the word “sample ballot” written down the side.
Mills sent an email to Edmonds last Friday supporting the protest.
Halifax County Attorney Glynn Rollins told the board his opinion was not having the legend “paid for” was not required because the candidates spent less than $1,000 on their campaigns.
He cited state elections law covering the scope of disclosure requirements which says it does “not apply to an individual who makes uncoordinated independent expenditures aggregating less than one-thousand dollars in a political campaign.”
He also used a statute which says “official ballot” means a ballot that has been certified by the State Board of Elections and produced by or with the approval of the county board of elections. The term does not include a sample ballot or a specimen ballot.”
County Board of Elections Director Kristin Scott said the incumbents stated and signed in their filing documents they didn’t plan to spend more than $1,000 on their campaigns.
Halifax, Littleton write-ins and provisional ballots
Scott confirmed that Jane Bass collected enough write-in votes to be declared the fifth commissioner on the Halifax town board.
Two incumbents did not file but one newcomer, William F. Johnson, chose to run.
Johnson, along with incumbents Lisa Turner, Patterson Wilson and Christina Wells all won.
There were 29 write-in votes cast in the election. Bass collected 14 write-ins.
At the end of last week’s initial vote count, incumbent Littleton Commissioner Gerleen Pitchford collected 16 votes while there 19 write-in ballots cast.
After a review of the write-ins, Pitchford ended up regaining her seat.
The board of elections today also approved eight provisional ballots and threw out 16.
The provisionals are not expected to alter any of last week’s races, Scott said.
The canvass of votes will be Friday at 11 a.m. in the old commissioners building next to the Historic Courthouse in Halifax.