Blinson removed from elections board

Published 5:13 pm Friday, December 20, 2013

The N.C. State Board of Elections on Friday removed Delma Blinson from the Beaufort County Board of Elections for violating a state law that forbids elections officials from public statements supporting or opposing political candidates.

Blinson attended the state board’s meeting in Raleigh.

Blinson served as clerk to the local elections board.

“The SBOE, I feel, sent a very clear message to election officials across the state today, including local precinct officials, that they have no right to express an opinion on political matters. I took a stand that the current law allows an election official to participate in the political process as long as they do so as a private individual and not do so for public consumption,” Blinson wrote in an email he sent to the Washington Daily News on Friday afternoon. “I spoke up as a private individual in a TEA Party meeting in   support of Greg Brannon for the US Senate. That apparently upset the Establishment and they sent a very clear message that the TEA Party should sit down and shut up. I am amazed that they are so threatened by one person expressing an opinion different from theirs. The law specifically says: “… Individual expressions of opinion, support, or opposition not intended for general public distribution shall not be deemed a violation of this Article.” NCGS § 163-39. That is what I did and have now been told I, and others who serve as election officials, do not have that right. That’s bad public policy and a real sad day for North Carolina.”

The state board received a complaint that Blinson violated a state law — specifically, General Statue 163-39 — that forbids elections officials from making “written or oral statements intended for general distribution or dissemination to the public at large supporting or opposing the nomination or election of one or more clearly identified candidates for public office.”

The state board learned of the alleged violation by way of an email from Chocowinity resident William Buonanno. State board staff investigated the complaint. In a letter to Blinson, the state board wrote that as a result of the investigation, it appears the following facts have been established:

“You and others were in attendance at a Beaufort County Tea Party meeting on 10/12/13. You made a motion that was brought before the meeting to endorse a candidate for the 2014 Republican U.S. Senate nomination, Greg Brannon. Your motion received a second, and it passed. As a result, the Beaufort County Tea Party is on record, based upon your motion, that they are endorsing Mr. Brannon.

“We understand from a person at the meeting that you wanted to recommend Brannon ‘as he (you) though he (Brannon) was the best candidate.’ Beaufort County Republican Party Chairman Kidwell confirmed to our agency that he recalled your motion, second and the vote upon it. Chairman Kidwell also stated he did not see any problem with your making the recommendation. Of course, you are free to refute, bring into context or correct these alleged facts.”

During Friday’s hearing, Blinson acknowledged he made the motion, reports the News & Observer website.

Blinson was sworn in as a member of the Beaufort County Board of Elections on Aug. 20.

In his complaint to the state board, Buonanno wrote, “I feel the conduct of Delma Blinson, a Beaufort county board of election member, was inappropriate at best, unethical and probably illegal for a person in his position.”

The complaint alleges that Blinson, during an October meeting of the Beaufort County tea party, about the merits of a candidate running for the U.S. Senate. Buonanno wrote that Blinson’s actions warranted his removal from the Beaufort County Board of Elections so the board’s standards are not compromised any further.

Don Wright, general counsel for the state board, said Blinson could represent himself at the meeting, have an attorney represent him or do both. Wright wrote the letter the state board sent to Blinson informing him of the complaint and Dec. 20 meeting.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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