Election in Columbia in 1983 Came Down to One Vote

Published 2:48 pm Monday, July 29, 2013

Election season is around the corner as filings for 2014 races have concluded.

Tyrrell County
The filing of candidates in Tyrrell County closed at noon, Friday, July 19, 2013.  The candidates for the Columbia Municipal Election to be held on Tuesday, November 5, 2013 will be as follows:

Mayor:  F. Michael Griffin

Alderman: James W. Cahoon, Ray Marner and Mildred Ogletree

All of the candidates are incumbents seeking re-election.
Board of Elections
The Tyrrell County Board of Election received one new appointment. The Board consists of three people, registered in the county with not more than two belonging to the same political party.


The state chairman of each political party recommends three names to the Sate Board of Elections. The State Board of Elections makes the appointment on the last Tuesday in June. Rea-appointed were Dennis W. Swain, Jr.(REP) and Inetta Sykes(DEM). John C. Kirkman,III (UNA appointed by the Republican Party) to replace G.Cecil Lilley, Jr.(DEM)

The board was sworn in at noon on Tuesday, July 16, by the Clerk of Court, Angie E. Sexton. They elected officers; Mr. Swain, chairman,;Mrs. Sykes, secretary, and Mr. Kirkman, member.

They will meet the third Monday at 5:15 pm and other times as required by general statutes.

The secretary, Mrs. Sykes designated the director of elections to prepare and maintain the minutes of the board meetings.

Their next meeting will be on Tuesday, August 20 as required to appoint poll workers for the precincts.
Every Vote Counts
An account compiled by Ray McClees for the Tyrrell County Genealogy and Historical Society offers a reminder that elections however small do matter.

“Thirty years ago every resident’s vote was important in the municipal election for two seats on the Columbia Board of Aldermen. When the tallying was over and the unofficial count was announced soon after the polls closed, Peggy Griffin was the runaway favorite with 114 votes, which assured her of four years on the town’s governing board,” says in McClees in the prepared story.

The second seat was in question. Billy Ray Barber and Bertram L. Davenport were tied at 93 votes each and Willoughby Midgett was one vote behind them at 92.

Each voter had been given two choices among the five candidates for the two seats on the town’s at-large board of aldermen, so many as 207 people marked their paper ballots in the Agricultural Building Auditorium on November 8,1983, that number being the sum of votes cast for Griffin for either Barber or Davenport.

Two days later the county elections board met to resolve the unofficial tie vote and approve the final results. Tessie Hollis was chairwoman, John Kirkman and Everett Swain were members. Ruth Woodley was supervisor.

Below is the transcript of the typewritten minutes of that meeting uncovered by Debbie Swain, Tyrrell County Elections Director:

The Tyrrell County Board of Elections met Thursday, November 10, 1983 at ten o’clock to canvass the results of the Municipal Election.

Two of the candidates, Billy Ray Barber and Bertram L. Davenport, had received the same number of notes. So the board felt a recount was necessary. After recounting the votes were as follows:

Billy Ray Barber 93
Bertram L. Davenport 93
Margaret Ann Griffin 114
Willoughby Midgett 92

James Rouse 52
The results were the same as when the votes were counted on election night. Also George Owens, being the sole candidate for mayor, received 181 votes, with one vote cast for Earl Rhodes.

The tied candidates then questioned the possibility of a runoff election. The State Board of Elections was called for a ruling on this question. The supervisor said that the decision must be made by lot and the State Board recommended putting the two names in a basket, and William Hollis, age 3, was asked to draw one out. The name was then presented to the chairman, and she read the name was Bertram L. Davenport.

The recounting and drawing being finished, the board proceeded with the election canvass, the results being George Owens elected as mayor, and Peggy Griffin and B.L. Davenport as Board of Alderman members.

The canvass being ended, the board was then open for discussion of any other matters.

The supervisor and the chairman were given the board’s approval to attend a meeting in Chapel Hill on Dec. 9 and 10.