ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Elections has denied the protest of the Nov. 7 Dublin election.
Tuesday afternoon, the Board of Elections heard the protest filed by Dublin town commissioner candidate Richard Sibbett. Sibbett’s protest, filed in late November, alleged — based on information on the PeopleFinder app — that 18 people who cast ballots for frontrunner Jeff Smith didn’t live in Dublin.
Two of the people were ruled out at the preliminary hearing, and Tuesday, the board heard information on the remaining 16 people. There was some confusion about who the 16 people were, however, since Sibbett presented information on all 18. In the end, what was clear was that the majority of the people were conceded by Sibbett as living in Dublin.
Three of the people still in question are women claiming to live at the same 6875 Albert Street address. Sibbett maintains — and called Tommy Thompson as a witness to attest — that the house is empty, there are never any cars there, trash cans are never moved, and the same lights are on every night. Sibbett also called into question a water bill, stating skepticism that three women would use less water than he. Smith and his attorney, Cynthia Singletary, maintain the women work out of town.
Another — Mary Harvey — submitted an affidavit stating she lives on Fourth Street.
“I did not fill out one of the ballots,” Harvey stated in writing. “One of the witnesses filled it out and I signed it … They said they were with Jeff Smith. I do not know who I voted for, and I will not vote again.”
In her closing statement, Singletary conceded the issue, saying it was the only one of the 16 with which she “has a problem.”
Subpoenas for many of the 16 people were undeliverable and certified mail returned unopened to the addresses they claim as residences. Singletary maintained there could be “many reasons” for such an occurrence. She also called into question the use of the People Finder app as the basis for Sibbett’s complaint.
Facing Sibbett directly, she said, “It shows you live in Shallotte.”
“I used to live there,” Sibbett replied.
“The same thing could happen with some of these people,” Singletary pressed.
In the end, 10 of the 16 people were conceded by Sibbett as living in Dublin, leaving six in question.
“The law states if the results don’t change the outcome of the election, the protest is denied,” Chairman Bobby Ludlum stated, referring to the margin of defeat of nine votes.
Before the hearing drew to a close, however, Dublin resident McCrae Dowless stood up and addressed the board with a concern.
“When this is all done, we would like (to know) what this is costing taxpayers,” he said.
“That’s public record,” responded Board of Elections Director Cynthia Shaw.
After the hearing, Smith pressed the issue with local media.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this cost $10,000 to hold this hearing today,” he said. “That could have been prevented by walking around town and knocking on doors. (Sibbett) did 45 minutes of research on his computer, or he could have walked around town in an hour and a half. That 45 minutes he saved cost the taxpayers $10,000. That’s not small potatoes.”
Smith previously vowed to file a defamation lawsuit and said after the hearing the decision is “still up in the air.” He did, however, say Sibbett and he spoke “cordially” outside the Board of Elections.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing email@example.com.