Thursday, February 29, 2024

Elections board calls emergency meeting to recount ballots, again, in tight NHCS race

The recount continues for the New Hanover County Board of Education race as a second, hand-to-eye sample count is scheduled for Friday. (Port City Daily/Alexandria Sands)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Even after a recount Wednesday, it’s still unknown who will fill the eighth candidacy spot in the New Hanover County Board of Education race. Democratic candidate Jennah Bosch is still ahead in the primaries, now by two votes, but Nelson Beaulieu, her incumbent opponent, has requested staff once again double check votes, this time by hand.

The New Hanover County Board of Elections has called an emergency meeting for Friday at 1 p.m. at its home base, the Northeast Library on Military Cutoff Road. It will review ballots from 3% of precincts, chosen at random. Two bipartisan teams comprised of four election officials will conduct the sample, explained elections director Rae​ Hunter‑Havens, and the time it takes will depend on the precincts selected.

If the results conflict in a way that points toward results flipping, workers will count all 30,000-plus votes by hand and eye.

“If the results of the hand-to-eye recount differ from the previous results within those precincts to the extent that extrapolating the amount of the change to the entire jurisdiction (based on the proportion of ballots recounted to the total votes cast for that office) would result in the reversing of the results, then the State Board of Elections shall order a hand-to-eye recount of the entire jurisdiction in which the election is held,” state statute explains.

On primary election night, Beaulieu was ahead of his competitor by three votes. Following the canvass, Beaulieu fell two votes behind Bosch. A losing candidate has the right to demand a recount of the votes if the disparity between the prevailer’s turnout is no more than 1%.

Wednesday, the New Hanover County Board of Elections did that at the request of Beaulieu. Throughout the day at the Northeast Library, elections staff rescanned 31,263 ballots through a high-speed central scanner and vote tabulator. In the end, Bosch landed at 7,373 votes and Beaulieu at 7,371, different from the post-canvass results of 7,375 and 7,373, respectively. Both received 16.28% of ballots cast in their favor and are about 2,000 behind the third runner-up Judy Justice, another sitting member.

Since the initial recount did not reverse the outcome, Beaulieu had 24 hours to demand a second on a hand-to-eye basis. (Bosch would have had the same right if the results reversed her lead.)

Also at Friday’s emergency meeting, members of the public will have the chance to address the elections board about the May primary and recount procedures during a comment period. Due to the meeting nature and location, the board is not providing a by-phone or virtual attendance option.

“All interested parties are encouraged to physically attend this meeting, as increased capacity for in-person observation will be made available,” according to the public notice.

The other candidates in the school board race are Democrats Veronica McLaurin-Brown, Dorian Cromartie and Justice and Republicans Pat Bradford, Melissa Mason, Josie Barnhart and incumbent Pete Wildeboer.

Chris Sutton was the lowest vote-getter in the Republican race and was not eligible to advance to the general election or close enough to consider a recount, as he fell 2,330 votes behind Wildeboer.

There are four seats open. Stefanie Adams is not seeking re-election.

Reach journalist Alexandria Sands at or @alexsands_

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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