WILMINGTON – The New Hanover County Board of Elections met today to issue certificates for all county races, bringing closure to the contentious 2016 elections.
Elections results were challenged numerous times, both by recount requests from candidates Derrick Hickey and Julia Boseman, and protests by Densay Sengsoulavong and John Christian Anderson.
Anderson appealed his protest to the State Board of Elections, but county officials claim he failed to properly notify them of his intent. Under state law, Anderson’s appeal would be invalid if he did not give notice of intent to appeal with 24 hours of his original hearing.
Anderson claimed that he had actually dropped off a notice with the county on the day of his hearing, emailing a copy of his appeal notice to Josh Lawson, general legal counsel for the State Board. The State Board gave Anderson until Friday at 5 p.m. to prove that he had delivered the same notice to county officials. Anderson did not respond by the deadline and the state gave New Hanover County the go-ahead to issue certificates.
“The appeal is mute since we didn’t get notification” Board Director Derek Bowens said. “This is even more affirmed today by the fact that the state didn’t take jurisdiction over the appeal. So we are free to issue these certificates.”
Anderson expressed frustration about the decision.
“The records I was seeking, that other [county] boards provided in a timely manner … will be considered corrupted by the amount of time lapse,” he said. “Any lawyer will tell you, if someone is asking for information, the first course of action is to stall till what they are looking for is no longer of value.”
He did, however, hold out some hope for what he sees as legal reform of the voting process:
“The value … to hopefully change the general [voting] statutes to cover any gaps in the election laws,” he said. “I feel that is where I am currently.”
According to the County Board of Elections, Anderson never reviewed documents that were prepared for him as part of his initial protest. He has the option to pursue legal action – at his own expense – and could take an appeal to the North Carolina Superior Court. Board Chairman Jonathan Washburn made a point of publicly welcoming Anderson to return to the Board “with his facts and his figures.”
“I’m happy to hear him out. I don’t want him to feel like he’s getting the cold shoulder,” Washburn said.
The Board also heard public comments from Ed Ablard, who cited a Washington Post article concerning “how badly our North Carolina election has gone, particularly people with reference to people who did not get to vote because … of the ways North Carolina administers its registration laws.”
Ablard called on the Board to make changes in the coming year.
Bowens said Ablard’s complaint “does not make sense to me,” and may have stemmed from Ablard’s misunderstanding of the election process.
Washburn said there was still an opportunity to “get some help from one of our citizens, even if it is an issue he is misunderstanding.”
Bowens said “absolutely, I think education is in order,” and offered to go over in depth the county procedures with Ablard at a later time.
After signing the certificates – bringing the 2016 election to a close – the board withdrew to a closed session to discuss the ongoing lawsuit brought against the Board by Marvin MacFayden, the former director who was terminated in 2015.