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Monday, May 27, 2024

200 more votes tallied in New Hanover elections, but standings hold steady

2021 Election Day at the New Hanover County Senior Resource Center (Port City Daily photo/Williams)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Results for the municipal elections are one step closer to being locked-in, as local elections boards add provisional ballots to the tallies and prepare for canvassing. 

The New Hanover County Board of Elections added 134 provisional ballots to the unofficial results across races in Wilmington and the three beach towns. Though there were also around 80 absentee by-mail ballots also tallied last night, the results in New Hanover County appear unchanged. 

Provisional ballots are given to voters when their ability to vote, or vote in a given election, is questionable. The ballots are filled out as normal, then researched by elections staff to determine eligibility. 

New Hanover County registered the largest number of provisional ballots in the state at just over 470. Of the 332 that were denied, most were shot down because the voter in question lived in the unincorporated county rather than in one of the four municipalities hosting an election. Elections Director Rae Hunter-Havens said misunderstandings around what’s Wilmington and what’s not are the dominant reason that provisional ballots are cast in the county. 

Especially around the Ogden and Monkey Junction areas, it’s common for some county residents to arrive at the polls, believing they live in the city. If it turns out the voter resides outside city limits, the vote doesn’t count. 

Pender County also updated its tallies yesterday, but only with four extra votes, and standings appear unchanged. 

The narrowest race in New Hanover, which presumably could have been impacted by the addition of 232 votes into the total, was the Carolina Beach Town Council race. Deb LeCompte trails Mike Hoffer by 18 votes. (The difference was 20 votes prior to the tabulations Monday). 

In the Wilmington City Council race, where voters selected three choices from eight candidates, incumbent Clifford Barnett Sr. maintains a lead over Paul Lawler for the third spot. The margin was narrowly expanded after the vote counting Monday; with Barnett picking up 120 votes and Lawler grabbing 100, it’s a 0.45% lead. 

New Hanover County residents Ricky Meeks and Patrick Alan Pittman, picked up eight and seven write-in votes, respectively, for the Wilmington mayoral race (Meeks commonly gets a few votes per cycle, according to elections officials).

Provisional ballots are counted depending on the outcome of elections staff research; most of the accepted ballots reflected eligible voters who presented to vote at the wrong precinct. Absentee by-mail ballots could be accepted up to three days after the elections but had to be postmarked by Nov. 2. There were 18 late by-mail ballots that were not accepted into the tallies. 

There were also a few case studies that required the direction of the board, like a wet ballot, and two ballots mailed together, one with a slight tear (ruling: both approved).

Elections officials also debriefed the board on the case of a voter who apparently interpreted a request from elections staff, for clarifying information about his name, as instructions to vote again. Now that he has double voter history, he’ll probably have to deal with a visit from state board of elections inspectors, but in flagging the situation, county staff noted he probably didn’t intend to vote twice.

The process of certifying the vote gets underway this morning with the canvassing meeting of the board of elections scheduled for 9 a.m. The public can attend at 1241 A Military Cutoff Road, as well as online through a livestream

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