Senate race recount aheadPublished 8:45pm Monday, November 19, 2012
Beaufort County resident Bill Cook on Monday declared victory in the state Senate District 1 race, according to a news release from Cook’s campaign.
Not so fast, said incumbent Sen. Stan White.
Cook, a Republican currently representing District 6 in the state House, called on White, a Democrat, to concede the race. Cook leads White by 32 votes, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections’ website, which shows 43,743 votes for Cook and 43,711 votes for White. Before ballot canvassing Friday, unofficial vote totals had White with a lead over Cook.
“The voters have spoken and every vote has been counted. I call on my opponent to concede the race and save the cash-strapped counties the expense of a cumbersome recount,” Cook said. “It serves no purpose to keep the voters in limbo about their new representation in the Senate.”
There will be no concession by White.
“I’m afraid I’m not going to agree with him,” White said Monday afternoon. “If fact, I’ve already sent in the paperwork (requesting a recount). I really do find it ironic that he would say (for me to) concede. When I was up 388 votes (election night), he’d already said he was calling for a runoff.”
The canvass results — giving Cook the slim lead — came as somewhat of a surprise, White said.
“I think what surprised me more than anything else was the number of discarded provisional votes. I know a lot of folks who thought they were registered and were not, and certainly their votes didn’t count,” White said.
Tommy Fulcher, a spokesman for White’s campaign, on Monday confirmed the State Board of Elections had received White’s recount request. It appears that recount will be conducted early next week, either Monday or Tuesday.
Cook, a one-term state representative who defeated incumbent Arthur Williams for the District 6 seat in 2010, expressed concerns about possible recount irregularities.
“The recount process has occasionally been problematic in the east under the Democratic administration — examples would include Beaufort County in 1998 and Wayne County in 2002. NCGOP has assured me they will be here in force for a recount and ready to take any legal action to prevent this election result from being manipulated improperly.”
Cook said the more observers at a recount, the better the transparency of that recount and improved assurance that recount was conducted fairly and impartially.
“Sometimes there are irregularities that occur in the voting process. The voting process should be as transparent as possible and with a minimum of human error,” Cook said in a brief interview Monday afternoon.
“The Beaufort County Board of Elections and myself have done everything possible to make those involved with Representative Cook’s Campaign feel comfortable with the election process and how it was conducted in Beaufort County. We have been in constant communication with the campaign, and, until now, was unaware of any issues concerning their confidence in the way the election was conducted,” wrote Beaufort County Elections Director Kellie Harris Hopkins in an emai. “It is disheartening and frustrating to me that every effort was made to be transparent and forthcoming with all information and still have to contend with accusations concerning unlawful and unethical conduct.
“I have been in contact with Represetative Cook this afternoon, and our conversation was a positive one, and the board and myself will continue to serve Representative Cook and Senator White in the capacity of conducting a fair and correct recount without favor to either party concerned. Observers are welcome during the recount and will reinforce that we conduct fair elections in Beaufort County.”
In the interview with Cook on Monday, he expressed his confidence in Hopkins and how the Beaufort County Board of Elections operates.
Provisional ballots are marked on Election Day by voters whose registration status can’t be verified right away at polling places. On or before canvassing day, the ballots are checked against elections records to clear up any registration discrepancies.
Among provisional ballots rejected are those cast by voters who were not registered, had registered to vote in other counties or had been convicted of felonies but had failed to update their registrations after having their full rights of citizenship restored.