Columbus County elections board certifies disputed sheriff’s race

Columbus County elections board certifies disputed sheriff’s race
Jody Greene

COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - At its meeting Thursday morning, the Columbus County Board of Elections certified the results of the sheriff’s race and issued Jody Greene his certificate of election.

The move comes a day after a Wake County judge denied a motion to delay certification of the disputed sheriff’s race in Columbus County.

Back-and-Forth

Shortly after the November election, in which Greene narrowly beat incumbent Sheriff Lewis Hatcher, Columbus County resident Gloria Smith filed a formal complaint, alleging irregularities at various polling locations on election day. Smith later amended her complaint to include concerns that Greene did not live in the county for a year prior to the election, as required by state law.

Smith’s protest was quickly dismissed by the Columbus County Board of Elections, however, Smith appealed the county board’s decision to the State Board of Elections. Despite the pending appeal and lack of a certificate of election, Greene was sworn in as sheriff.

In March, the state board sent Smith’s appeal back to the county board, asking it to hold an evidentiary hearing on the matter. Following a two-day hearing in April, the county board voted 3-2 that Greene did not live in the county leading up to the election.

Greene’s camp appealed that decision to the state board, which ultimately reversed the county board’s ruling and ordered a certificate of election be issued.

Last week, attorneys for Smith appealed the state board’s ruling to Wake County Superior Court and filed a motion for a stay to prevent certification of the election, which resulted in Wednesday’s hearing.

What’s Next?

Following Judge Bryan Collins’ ruling, the Columbus County Board of Elections certified the election Thursday morning.

“We appreciate Judge Collins’ diligence in reviewing the case,” said Boyd Worley, Greene’s attorney, when reached for comment on Wednesday. “He made the appropriate decision. This was a significant step in finalizing the November election of Sheriff Greene and we look forward to the next chapter.”

Smith’s appeal of the state board’s decision is ongoing.

“We are disappointed in the lack of a stay but we believe we are correct on the law and will ultimately prevail,” Ralph Frasier, Smith’s attorney, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

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