COLUMBUS CO., NC (WECT) - Election workers are busy in Columbus County, recounting 19,000 ballots at Sheriff Lewis Hatcher’s request. The vote began at 10 a.m. Thursday, and officials said late Thursday afternoon they would not be able to finish until Friday due to the large number of ballots they need to count. As of 5 p.m., they’d counted all ballots cast in the precincts on Election Day, as well as all the one-stop votes from all satellite locations except one.
Acting Columbus County Board of Elections Director Jackie Bozeman said there were over 5,300 one-stop ballots cast at the Board of Elections headquarters alone, and workers were still trying to finish counting those. She said they planned to work until 7 p.m. Thursday, and then return at 9 a.m. Friday to finish the count, which should be finished sometime Friday morning.
Once the recount is finished, the new count will be certified, but Bozeman said a Certificate of Election will not be issued until after four vote protests are addressed, because they could potentially impact the sheriff’s race. A State Board of Elections official is expected to return to Columbus County Friday morning to help resolve the formal complaints that have been filed surrounding Columbus County’s November election. Most of the protests, including one filed by County Commissioner Amon McKenzie, involve ballot and voting issues in Tabor City.
Incumbent Columbus County Sheriff Lewis Hatcher asked Board of Elections officials on Nov. 19 for a recount, submitting a handwritten note.
On Nov. 19, the NC Board of Elections helped count remaining absentee ballots in Columbus County. That wasn’t done on Nov. 16 — canvass day — because the county Board of Elections director had to be rushed to the hospital for unknown reasons.
The certified numbers have Jody Greene leading Hatcher by 34 votes, far less than one percent of the total number of votes cast, which makes Hatcher’s request for a recount allowed.
This comes after several ballot problems on election night and during canvassing. One ballot style wasn’t delivered on time to a Tabor City precinct on election day, thus prolonging the voting process for about two hours.
Additionally, while sorting through provisional ballots, the board realized one of the ballots was not in its possession.
Hatcher said because of all of the issues, he wants things double checked.
“I realize there was some discrepancies on Election Day and some things happened," Hatcher said. "Not pointing fingers at anybody, but I just feel like...to ask for the recount is in my perfect right and no animosity to anyone. I want the system to work, but I want it to work fairly.
“I want it done right, whatever is done, however the outcome is, as long as it’s done right, then I’ll be satisfied.”