Recount request: Alleged voter influence at Belhaven poll

Published 9:40 pm Tuesday, November 5, 2013



The election results came in Tuesday night in Belhaven, but allegations of inappropriate voter influence may just lead to all Belhaven votes being recounted.

According to numbers from the Beaufort County Board of Elections, incumbent Mayor Adam O’Neal will serve a fifth term in office. O’Neal won by a count of 282 to 192 over mayoral candidate Ronald Winfield.

But it’s other races, alleged conflicts of interest and advice given by poll workers at the John A. Wilkinson Center, reminding them of a write-in candidate for the unexpired East End Alderman seat vacated by Cindi Ross, that had Belhaven officials already in contact with the Board of Elections before voting ended Tuesday, according to O’Neal.

“We’ve already started looking into it. I’m sure there will be a recount and I’m sure that whatever the ballots say, we’ll go with that,” O’Neal said. “We’ll respect that. But we need to make sure the ballots are fully counted and at this time, that is not a certainty.”

According to O’Neal, during voting Tuesday, poll workers were mentioning Karen Fisher by name as the write-in candidate for the seat for which Julian Goff was running unopposed. Goff still won the election with 290 votes to Fisher’s 120.

One upset was challenger Tony Williams’ win over incumbent, and mayor pro tem, Steve Carawan. Voting on Election Day put them in a dead tie of 228 votes each, but of early voters, seven voted for Williams, three for Carawan, with the win going by a very small margin to Williams.

Williams said he expected there would be recount.

“It’s been back and forth all day. It was an extremely good turnout from what I expected but it was kind of a toss-up through out the day,” Williams said.

Williams said regardless of a recount, he’s going to continue to hope he’ll be given the chance to bring the residents’ voice to the board and “keep things moving in a forward, positive direction.”

Greg Sattherthwaite, who ran unopposed for West End Alderman, ended the night with a vote count of 361.

O’Neal said that though there are a lot of doubts about the final tallies, the true counts will be known within the next week. He said he’s ready to move forward, as is Belhaven.

“I’m glad to see the people of Belhaven want to continue on the path we’ve been on and finish the projects we’ve got in progress,” O’Neal said, naming several municipal projects, not the least of which is “aggressive action to save our hospital.”

Winfield said he wished O’Neal well and hopes the town can move forward.

“I would very much like to thank all of those that came out and supported me in this election,” Winfield said, recognizing his brother, Alton Winfield, as being his most ardent supporter. “I’d further like to say I wish the Mayor the best of luck and I hope we can move forward and progress.”