Friday, March 31, 2023

Update: New Hanover County canvass widens Peterson’s lead over Lee, who concedes

New Hanover County Board of Elections met Friday to sign off on the final canvass after accepting 1,121 provisional and absentee ballots and denying 771. Two races, including Board of Education and Senate District 9, include less than one percent margins.

Unofficial Senator-elect Harper Peterson greets New Hanover County Board of Education member Evelyn Bryant before the final canvass was announced Friday, which widened Peterson's lead over Senator Michael Lee. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
Unofficial Senator-elect Harper Peterson greets New Hanover County Board of Election member Evelyn Bryant before the final canvass was announced Friday, which widened Peterson’s lead over State Senator Michael Lee. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

Update 4:00 p.m. – Michael Lee has issued a statement, conceding the race.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — After over 1,000 remaining provisional and absentee ballots were counted Friday, unofficial senator-elect Harper Peterson gained a stronger lead over incumbent State Senator Michael Lee.

Before the canvass, Peterson had earned 36 more votes than Lee, a .04-percent lead. With the remaining votes now accepted by New Hanover County Board of Elections, Peterson increased his lead over Lee by 195 votes, a .2-percent lead.

RELATED: Republicans hold Brunswick, Pender; Democrats shake up New Hanover, Peterson over Lee by 38 votes

If State Senate District 9 was flipped Republican-to-Democratic, it would officially break the Republican’s supermajority in the North Carolina Senate. If Lee requests a recount and ends up being re-elected in District 9, Republicans would keep their supermajority, with the power to override a veto.

Lee –and other candidates within a one percent margin of the total vote count — has until 5 p.m. Monday to request a recount.

A recount on the way?

After approving the remaining votes, the Board of Elections pre-emptively carved out time on the first week of December to tentatively schedule a recount meeting.

Though all eyes have been on the Lee-Peterson run-off, several local races come close to meeting the one percent threshold.

A difference of 930 votes, or 0.2 percent of the total amount cast, separated Bill Rivenbark and Bruce Shell in the New Hanover County Board of Education race before the new count. Now, Rivenbark’s spot is secured, ahead of Elena Rosemond-Hoerr by 839 votes, still .2 percent of the total. Incumbent Bruce Shell moved below Elena Rosemond-Hoerr after today; either could, in theory, request a recount.

Even incumbents Janice Cavenaugh and Don Hayes, within a .5 and .7 percent margin from being re-elected respectively, could ask for a recount.

New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners race, which flipped the board’s majority from Republican-to-Democrat, is just shy of the one percent recount requirement.

Democratic Commissioner-elect Julia Boseman increased her lead over Republican incumbent Skip Watkins by 238 votes, a 1.2-percent difference. Two years ago, Boseman asked for a recount in her Board of Commissioners bid, which ultimately did not make a final result difference.

In House District 19, a 2.4-percent difference separates incumbent, recently re-elected Representative Ted Davis, Jr. from his Democratic opponent, Marcia Morgan. After today’s count, Morgan shrunk Davis’ earlier 953-vote lead by 71 votes; still not enough to meet a recount requirement.

Rae Hunter-Havens, New Hanover County’s Board of Elections director, said in the event of a recount, only paper ballots will be recounted.

When asked if she expects results to change after a recount, Hunter-Havens said only by a couple of votes.

“Normally, they are very small differences,” she said. “Typically for recounts we use a high-speed tabulator that’s a little more sensitive so it might be able to pick up a much fainter mark in an oval that perhaps the M100s [election ballot tabulator] could.”

During her time at the Board of Elections, Hunter-Havens said she’s never seen a vote count change by much.

“We’ve never seen more than a couple votes either way since I’ve been here and I’ve been here since 2011.”

Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at

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