Second recount begins MondayPublished 9:12pm Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Beaufort County’s second recount in the race for the District 1 seat in the state Senate begins at 8 a.m. Monday.
The hand-to-eye recount will be conducted at the Beaufort County Board of Elections office. The other seven counties in the district also will conduct second recounts early next week. It was unclear Wednesday when each of those counties would conduct a recount, but the state board informed them those recounts would be held Monday and/or Tuesday. There is a chance a county could conduct its second recount Friday, according to a memorandum from the state board to the eight boards of elections that will conduct second recounts.
“After receipt of official hand-to-eye recount totals, the State Board will meet to determine whether a complete hand-to-eye should be ordered to certify the election,” reads the memorandum.
After initial recounts Monday, Beaufort County resident Bill Cook, a Republican currently representing District 6 in the state House, held a 21-vote lead over incumbent Stan White, a Dare County Democrat, whose request for a second recount was granted by the N.C. State Board of Elections.
The boards of elections involved in the second recount will select random samples of some of the ballots cast in their respective counties. Those ballots will be counted by the hand-eye method instead of using electronic voting tabulators to count the votes.
“The sample will be drawn immediately prior to the hand count. There is a possibility that our one-stop ballots could be recounted after the random draw. With this in mind, we have decided to start early so that if we must hand count the one stop ballots, we have ample time to complete the recount on Monday,” wrote Beaufort County Elections Director Kellie Harris Hopkins in an email.
Under state law, that sample will be all the ballots in 3 percent of the precincts in the county. The precincts to be recounted shall be randomly chosen, the law states.
That means the Beaufort County BOE will review ballots from one precinct, said Anita Bullock Branch, deputy director of elections, on Wednesday. The name of each of the county’s 21 precincts will be written on a slip of paper and placed into a container with a slip of paper marked to represent one-stop/absentee ballots. A slip of paper will be withdrawn from the container. The name of the precinct on that slip of paper will be announced. The board will look at the ballots from that precinct.
Meanwhile, Cook has asked the State Board of Elections to declare him the winner of the race.
“I am disappointed to see the continued efforts of my opponent to extend this race when I have received the majority of the votes in two counts. I ask the state board to do declare me the winner. Further delay only serves to undermine the credibility of the election process here in North Carolina,” Cook said.
Cook was also critical of comments by SBOE Director Gary Bartlett, of attempting to introduce provisional-ballot questions into the recount process.
“I am disturbed to see Mr. Bartlett’s comments in the press about provisional ballot reviews by local boards and see this as another attempt to delay certifying my victory. He is aware about the timeline and circumstances of these ballots and his bringing this situation into question publicly while the process is still ongoing brings into question his judgment in this matter,” Cook said.
“I have won this race and prevailed in two counts and further attempts to deny my victory will bring the entire process into question,” Cook concluded.
As part of the hand-to-eye recount, elections board members try to determine voter intent when looking at ballots. In Beaufort County, voters are asked to fill in an oval beside a candidate’s name. Sometimes, voters will make a check mark or an X in the oval instead of filling it in. Sometimes, electronic voting tabulators don’t record votes because ballots were improperly marked.
If the majority of board members determine a voter’s intent in a specific ballot item, that vote is counted. If a voter’s intent cannot be determined by visually inspecting a ballot, that vote is not counted.