ELIZABETHTOWN — A protest has been filed over the results of Dublin’s municipal election.
Friday morning, the Bladen County Board of Elections met and held its election canvass. Before the meeting began, however, a preliminary hearing was held.
“There was a protest filed that will affect the results of Dublin’s election,” said Chairman Bobby Ludlum.
The protest was filed by Town commissioner candidate Richard Sibbett, alleging that since Dublin had opted out of absentee voting in 2015, no ballots of that kind should have been accepted. The protest also alleges 16 voters who cast absentee ballots do not live in Dublin.
According to Board of Elections members, a letter was sent in July asking municipalities whether they plan to participate in provisional voting. Having received the letter signed by the town clerk affirming Dublin’s intent to participate, the Board of Elections proceeded with one-stop and absentee ballots.
Sibbett alleges the letter was sent with the intent to manipulate the election results by incumbent Commissioner Jeff Smith. Town Commissioner David Kirby affirmed the letter was sent without the commissioners’ knowledge.
An additional 16 ballots are illegal, according to Sibbett, giving as an example three ballots cast from an address with an empty rental home. One of the votes was from the owner of the home — Brittany Meshaw — who, Sibbet claims, works for Smith and lives in Virginia.
In the election, Smith garnered 60 votes, just nine ahead of Sibbett’s 51.
Based on the above information, the board approved moving forward with a protest hearing, to be held within 10 days.
The issue of write-in votes was one the board addressed at length. Though the group doesn’t report anything specific for less than five votes, it is required to inform the state board of any number of write-in votes — even one — if it is cast for an uncontested race. In Tar Heel, two candidates — Angie Hall and Sam Allen — were the only filers for the three spots on the town’s board of commissioners. Since the one spot was uncontested, the board must notify the state board of any write-ins.
It also means a small number of votes could grab a spot on the board — exactly what happened. Gary Futrell was supported by two voters and Mike Underwood by four. One of those votes for Futrell and another for Underwood were not counted, since neither was bubbled in. Underwood squeaked into the third spot with three votes.
According to Shaw, incumbent Mayor Roy Dew contacted Underwood about serving, and the latter agreed.
With the exception of the Dublin election, the results of the municipal elections were certified by board members.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.