NEW HANOVER COUNTY — “Jennah, Jennah, Nelson, Nelson, Jennah, Nelson.”
That was the quiet chant in the New Hanover County Board of Elections’ home base Friday afternoon, as bipartisan teams of election officials tallied around 1,200 ballots by pencil, moving through one sheet at a time. The race between the two candidates is so tight — just a matter of single votes — that counters had to triple check the results.
The sample, hand-to-eye recount was conducted Friday at the demand of 2022 candidate and sitting school board member Nelson Beaulieu. He and Jennah Bosch are both vying for the eighth spot on the general election ballot in the school board race.
In two of the hand recounts, Beaulieu came up with one more vote than Bosch. In a third, two more votes were counted toward Beaulieu, which would have tied the candidates.
The teams were reviewing just a sample of ballots from two precincts drawn at random: Cape Fear Community College’s one-stop site and the Masonboro Elementary precinct. Officials had to total 876 Democratic ballots from the college polling place and 353 from the elementary school. There were a total of 14,701 Democratic ballots cast in the May primaries.
About one-twelfth of the Democratic ballots in New Hanover County were counted. Since Beaulieu gained one extra vote, and because one multiplied by 12 is 12, and since 12 is a number that could win Beaulieu the primary, it’s likely the board of elections will order a full recount of the 43 precincts. It is unofficial whether the state board will require such at this point, but a representative on the phone at Friday’s meeting advised that was likely.
“I’ll be glad for this to be over so that we can have a definite fourth number for the Democratic Party and that we can go ahead and get ready for the general in November,” Bosch said following the results.
Four seats on the board of education are up for grabs in the 2022 election, and eight spots are on the general election ballot. This year, though, 10 candidates competed for those checkboxes. While Chris Sutton was clearly the lowest vote getter in the Republican primary, it was unclear who came out ahead in the Democratic race between Beaulieu and Bosch.
As results trickled in on election night, it appeared Beaulieu was the fourth prevailing nominee, defeating opponent Bosch by three votes. After the canvass, Bosch was two votes ahead. Beaulieu hesitantly considered requesting a recount, as is a candidate’s right when margins are this small, but did so the Monday following Memorial Day weekend. After that recount, Bosch remained in the lead by two, but the outcomes were different. Bosch wound up at 7,373 votes and Beaulieu at 7,371, as opposed to the post-canvass results of 7,375 and 7,373.
Beaulieu requested the hand-to-eye recount earlier this week.