ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond County Board of Elections unanimously approved a recount to begin Thursday following a request by county commissioner candidate Tavares Bostic, who came within 0.77 percent of incumbent Kenneth Robinette for the third of three seats on the board.
According to North Carolina General Statute 163-182.7, “In a ballot item within the jurisdiction of the county board of elections, a candidate shall have the right to demand a recount of the votes if the difference between the votes for that candidate and the votes for a prevailing candidate is not more than one percent of the total votes cast in the ballot item, or in the case of a multi-seat ballot item not more than one percent of the votes cast for those two candidates. The demand for a recount must be made in writing and must be received by the county board of elections by 5 p.m. on the first business day after the canvass. The recount shall be conducted under the supervision of the county board of elections.”
Bostic formally requested the recount Nov. 23 before the 5 p.m. deadline.
“We know there’s also been a request, informally, for a recount in district court 16-A between (Michael) Stone and (Angela) Carter,” Elections Director Connie Kelly told the board. “There’s pending two statewide contests that cannot be given to us until the state has certified. So, this one has been officially requested and the choices before you would be to wait and do it all at one time, or to go ahead and count the local.”
Kelly said that the local pending recount is important to the commissioners, since they are swearing-in officers at their monthly meeting next Tuesday, but added that another recount will still be required by the state “eventually.”
“We go into it knowing that we would be counting this week, and then we’ll definitely have another recount, going through the same exact process again once the state determines,” she said. “It may or may not be the governor and may or may not be the auditor. They’re still waiting on Durham and Wake.”
Dena Cook, clerk to the board of commissioners, cited a state statute regarding the swearing-in of commissioners, saying, “They have to be sworn in the first Monday of December.”
“That means we’re going to have to do two recounts,” said A.B. Brown, elections board chairman, “but the first one we’re doing for the county commissioners. My point is this — they realize that’s going to cost some extra money.”
“They would have to realize that,” Kelly said.
“And somebody’s going to have to pay for that,” Brown added.
“You have to pay for what we have to have,” Kelly agreed.
Cook said if the elections board voted to postpone the commissioner recount until the state completed canvassing, causing the results to be undetermined in time for the swearing-in, she was uncertain how that situation would be handled.
“I know sort of the answer to that,” Kelly said. “One of the commissioners called yesterday, and I answered everything I knew I could. Then I suggested that the county attorney would be part of the answer. But I do know that in any case, if a county commissioner is in office, and there’s a question, or there’s a recount or a protest or anything that keeps them from taking office, the board continues as they are. Kenneth (Robinette) is the only one in question that’s an incumbent, so Kenneth would continue to serve until this race is determined. That part’s true.”
She said the state board of elections had given the county the choice whether to conduct the local and state recounts separately.
“It just kind of holds a cloud,” said County Commissioner Don Bryant. “The whole state’s under a cloud, and we’re under a cloud.”
Brown said that, given the state could hold things up until late Dec., moving forward seemed to be the best idea.
“We need to go ahead and do this, for these people now, obviously,” he said. “If it’s going to be way out, somewhere down the road, let’s just go ahead and settle with the county commissioners and get that out of the way.”
As for the cost of the recount, Kelly said close to a dozen workers would be required. On average, the pay would be roughly $10 per hour, and that she had already contacted people who could come in and work on Thursday.
Once the elections board members decided to go ahead with the local recount, they discussed the logistics of completing it in a timely fashion.
“All early votes have got be recounted the way they came in,” Brown said. “They’ve got to go through the same machine. So we can’t run two machines and feed them through. That’s what’s going to burn up time and slow down the process. The other ones I guess we could run through five different machines.”
“We’ve set up ten machines,” Kelly said. “And what’s going to happen is, it’s going to be busy all of the first part of the day. At some point, these will catch up to the one-stop machine, and that person will need to come off the machine and put someone else on it to finish out the day. And if it gets to being 5 o’clock and we were to see we have 2,000 more to go, we can come back that next morning and finish. That’s what we do on early voting.”
In a statement to the Daily Journal Tuesday evening, Bostic praised the elections board for its prompt action.
“I’m glad to see that the board of elections looks to handle the recount swiftly,” he said. “I’m looking forward to Ms. Kelly and her team to handle the recount with the high level of professionalism that we all saw during the entire campaign season.”
Kelly said the board members would need to be present for the recount, which begins Dec. 1 at 8 a.m. in the Richmond County Board of Elections Office at 221 South Hancock Street in Rockingham.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.