WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Candidates running for Wilmington City Council stared anxiously at the projector screen in City Hall Tuesday night, waiting on the numbers from the final three precincts to come in and decide their council fate.
Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes was in the lead, incumbent Neil Anderson in second, and newcomer Paul Lawler in third. Deb Hayes was 80 votes behind Lawler, but results from even one of the three precincts could have pushed her to the front.
After a nearly two hour wait, the State Board of Elections website showed all precincts were done reporting and the numbers were in, but the totals on the screen hadn't budged. That's because those final three precincts reported zero votes, meaning the results the candidates had been looking at for so long were final.
How could three precincts all report no votes? Nearly no one lives in them, according to Derek Bowens from the New Hanover County Board of Elections.
"The three that have been specifically discussed, H-08 [at Ogden Elementary], H-10 [at Eaton Elementary] and M-03 [on Carolina Beach Rd.], all have municipal annexations," Bowens explained. "We had to open two of them and the third is only commercial property. We open it administratively, but don't actually open it on Election Day because there are no eligible voters living there."
Bowens said hardly anyone lives in the annexed portions of the two precincts they opened on Election Day, and of the few, no one showed up to vote.
"If no one votes, there are no numbers to report," Bowens said.
Bowens said it took almost two hours for the Board of Elections to report zero votes because of the way the computer system is set up.
"Those three wouldn't show up as fully reported until we finalized our results internally and we didn't do that until we finished everything else."