OAK ISLAND — Oak Island mayoral candidate Kenneth Wayne Thomas agrees he’s never voted in Brunswick County. But in an interview, Thomas said he hasn’t voted in nearly a decade and has never voted in Columbus County.
Thomas’ voting records suggest otherwise.
On April 11, Thomas appeared in person to cancel his Columbus County voter registration at the Columbus County Board of Elections Office tied to his residential property address in Whiteville, according to interviews and records obtained by Port City Daily.
That same day, Thomas registered to vote in Brunswick County, for the first time, using his Oak Island address.
To be clear — there is no law or policy to prevent an individual from running for local public office if they’ve never voted in that jurisdiction. However, if Thomas has lived full-time in Oak Island since 1998 (as he attests he has), his voting history in Columbus County may violate election laws.
What the records show
A Columbus County Board of Elections representative confirmed each of Thomas’ prior 14 voting history events from the county’s internal system. These records indicate Thomas consistently voted in both general and primary Columbus County elections between 2004 and 2018.
This exact same voting history for Kenneth Wayne Thomas actively registered in Oak Island appears on the State Board of Elections’ online voter profile.
Columbus County’s voting records for a white, 70-year-old male named Kenneth Wayne Thomas cite the same age and Whiteville address, consistent with Oak Island police report records.
Multiple Oak Island Police Department incident reports (Thomas frequently calls 911) from Thomas’ Oak Island property cite an address on West Nance Street in Whiteville, N.C. as his home address. This same Whiteville address is listed in Columbus County’s voter profile for Kenneth Wayne Thomas.
The deed to Thomas’ Oak Island property lists the same business address in Whiteville that’s also listed in Whiteville Police Department incident reports involving Thomas, including one incident he does not dispute occurred.
Even Thomas’ signature appears similar in both his April 11 Columbus County voter cancellation form and July 5 Brunswick County candidacy filing.
Despite this, Thomas said the Columbus County records are wrong. “I haven’t voted anywhere else. That’s crap,” he said in an interview Wednesday.
Asked about his extensive voting history in Columbus County, Thomas suggested those records belong to another Kenneth Wayne Thomas. “That’s a lie. There’s over 100 Ken Thomas’ in North Carolina. Did you know that? Please don’t mix them, OK? Please don’t mix them.”
North Carolina records show there are only two active registered voters named ‘Kenneth Wayne Thomas’ beside the current mayoral candidate for Oak Island. One has only ever voted in Onslow County, the other has only ever voted in Wilkes County. There are also three ‘Kenneth Wayne Thomas’ that have been removed from active registration; two were in Anson County, one was in Mecklenburg County, and none of them ever voted in Columbus County.
Asked explicitely if he had voted in Columbus County, Thomas said: “No. Nope.”
“This is the Ken that’s lived in Oak Island since 1998. I haven’t been voting — and you’re doing me wrong to say I have voted in Columbus County. Saying that is wrong. I’m telling you the truth. That’s why we need voter ID…And to say that I did — even to say I did, you’re doing me wrong…The truth is I ain’t voted in a long time.”
Thomas explained he feels the system is “crooked” without voter ID requirements. “The only reason they have early voting is so dead people vote. Because they would scare the crap out of them if they come on election day,” he said.
Since 1998, Thomas estimates he’s spent six out of every seven days on Oak Island.
“I love Oak Island, I love my neighbors, I’ve been in the house I’ve been in since 1998,” he said.
In general, when a voter’s residency is challenged, quasi-judicial officials are trained that the presumption is in favor of allowing an individual to vote. General Statute §163A-842 considers a voters “intention to return” above supplementary evidence in voter residency challenges.
However, falsely attesting to information provided in the Authorization to Vote (the form voters sign in-person before casting a ballot) can result in felony charges. Sitting Surf City Councilman Jeremy Shugarts is being prosecuted on six counts of election violations for allegedly swearing to false information regarding his residency. Five of these charges relate to an allegedly false address listed on Shughart’s Authorization to Vote forms stemming back to 2012.
A Columbus County Board of Elections representative said Thomas’ Authorization to Vote records are not electronically available, but are located in boxes somewhere in the county offices.
Thomas owns both a business and property in Whiteville, incident reports show. His Oak Island neighbors, James and Kelly Harvell, described Thomas as a full-time resident when reached by phone.
“He comes and goes every day,” James Harvell said. “He lives there. He stays there at night. His house is right there where I can see it.”
Committee to Elect Ken Thomas
Since filing for candidacy in July, Thomas has personally deposited a total of $20,000 to the Committee to Elect Ken Thomas, State Board of Elections disclosure reports show. With two deposits from Thomas, the committee has no reported revenues from any other individual or outside source.
The committee has spent $9,000 total at Budget Printing in Whiteville on signs, supplies, literature, and stickers. Election signs “paid for by the committee to Elect Ken Thomas for Mayor” appeared in Oak Island front lawns on April 15, according to a timestamped photograph obtained by Port City Daily. According to Brunswick County Board of Elections Director Sara Knotts, Thomas filed organizational paperwork on April 30, indicating his committee was organized on April 26.
The presence of election signage 16 days prior to his stated organizational date presents a potential violation of campaign finance policy. According to the State Board of Elections Campaign Finance Manual, candidate committees are required to file organizational paperwork within 10 days of spending money in support of a campaign.
Presented with the apparent discrepancy and photo, Knotts said the Brunswick County Elections board does not have a stance on the issue and won’t be taking action. Campaign finance violations can be reported by individuals to the State Board of Elections, which may investigate the claim itself, pass it on to the relevant District Attorney’s Office, or refer it back to the county board for further review.
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