Deferred recount will postpone swearing-in
Published 6:15 pm Thursday, December 1, 2016
A delay in the recount involving two candidates for the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners will influence the swearing in of the four winning candidates in the Nov. 8 general election.
North Carolina law provides for county commissioners taking their oaths of office on the first Monday in December, but if election results in the commissioners race are not certified by then, the swearing-in ceremony would be affected. The Beaufort County Board of Elections is waiting on the North Carolina State Board of Elections to provide instructions regarding recounts at the local and state levels.
“It is anticipated that recount activities will be finished by December 12th. As such, the Board of Commissioners will briefly meet on December 5th and then recess the meeting until December 12th. No action is scheduled for the December 5th meeting,” wrote Katie Mosher, clerk to the board, in an email.
Last week after the county board conducted its canvass, Commissioner Gary Brinn and challenger Derik Davis, both Republicans, each gained one vote from seven provisional ballots approved by the board. Updated official vote totals show Brinn as the fourth-highest vote-getter in the commissioners contest, just 60 votes ahead of Derik Davis, who finished fifth among seven candidates. Brinn collected 3,290 votes to Davis’ 3,230 votes. The difference between their votes is less than 1 percent. Both are Republicans.
Several hours after the canvass, Davis filed his written request for a recount in the commissioners race. Under North Carolina law (General Statute 163-182), a candidate can demand a recount if the difference between the votes for that candidate and the votes of the winning candidate is less than 1 percent of the total votes cast in a non-statewide race, or in the case of a multi-seat ballot item, 1 percent of the votes cast for those two candidates.
Robert P. Joyce, an elections expert with the University of North Carolina’s School of Government, explains (in an email) the remedy for a delayed oath-taking event this way: “[A recount next week] would obviously delay the time that you would be able to issue the certificates of elections to the winners. That would mean that you would not be able to issue the certificates in time for the winners to take the oaths of office as provided in GS 153A-26. That statute says that the ‘persons who have been elected to county office in that election shall assemble at the regular meeting place of the board of commissioners’ on the first Monday in December and ‘shall take and subscribe the oath of office.’ Since the certificates of election will not have been issued, the apparent winners who are involved in the Davis recount would not be able to take the oaths at the time set out in the statute. That means that the old commissioners would hold over in office, until the newly-elected commissioners have received their certificates of election and taken the oaths.
“As soon as the recount has been completed and the certificates of election have been issued, then the newly-elected commissioners may take the oaths. They may ‘assemble at the regular meeting place of the board of commissioners’ to take the oath. The best way to do that would be by a special meeting of the board of commissioners called on 48-hours’ notice to comply with the Open Meetings Law. But in fact the statute does not require that the oaths be taken at a meeting of the board of commissioners and the individuals who have been issued certificates of election after the recount could take the oaths at times of their own choosing. As each one takes the oath, that individual then becomes a member of the board of commissioners. It would be helpful if they all take the oaths at the same time, so it is clear when the new board is fully constituted.”