NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - A New Hanover County judge up for reelection has had an elections complaint filed against her, questioning her alleged behavior outside of a one-stop voting site.
The complaint was filed on Friday about an incident that reportedly took place on Tuesday, Feb. 18 involving Judge Sandra Ray. According to complainant Mike Korn, who had volunteered to hand out political leaflets at the polls, Ray confiscated papers he’d given to a voter, including a pamphlet discouraging people from voting for Ray. Additionally, Korn indicates that Ray threatened legal action against him.
Ray has served as a District Court Judge for New Hanover and Pender counties for the last 15 years. She is currently running for reelection as a Republican. However, this election cycle she has a challenger in the primary, and the South East Republican Men’s Association is supporting her opponent.
Korn said on Feb. 18, he reported to the Northeast Library one-stop voting site to distribute election information. He was handing out sample ballots put out by the South East Republican Men’s Association, with Richard Kern (Ray’s opponent in the race) filled in on the ballot as the preferred Republican candidate.
Additionally, Korn was providing voters with a one-sheet pamphlet put together by a group of politically active local women with concerns about Ray, suggesting residents “vote her out.”
That pamphlet specifically mentions that Ray was “FIRED” from her job as a New Hanover County Assistant District Attorney for her handling of drunk driving cases. The allegations are consistent with published reports and court records from the 1990s that show the North Carolina Supreme Court “strongly condemn[ed]” Ray’s (who used to go by the name Sandra Criner) actions handling certain DWI cases as “wholly unacceptable.”
The pamphlet also questions the “political maneuver” Ray employed to get on the ballot unopposed when initially filing to run for judge in 2004, and her decision in 2018 to run as a Republican in a statewide general election against the judicial Court of Appeals candidate her party had endorsed. Ray pulled 15 percent of the vote in that race, splitting the Republican vote and “throwing the judicial seat to the Democrat,” the pamphlet reads.
Korn says after he gave his election materials to an elderly woman going inside the library to vote, Ray stepped in and took the pamphlets away from the voter, giving the woman her own campaign materials instead.
“She stopped the lady’s movement…she walked up in her path…. She had to literally take these papers from her,” Korn recalled of Judge Ray taking the materials away he had given the voter. “That’s an act of intimidation there. That’s not right.”
Korn said Ray then handed the materials back to him and told him she’d “see me in the deposition.” Korn said he saw that as a clear threat, that was especially concerning coming from a judge. Several days later, he decided to file a formal complaint with the Board of Elections.
Korn provided WECT with a stamped copy of the complaint he filed with the New Hanover County Board of Elections. County Board of Elections Director Rae Hunter-Havens acknowledged her office received the complaint and forwarded it on to the State Board of Elections (SBOE). We are in touch with the SBOE, seeking to determine the status of the complaint.
While they did not weigh in on the merits of this complaint, county elections officials directed us to elections documents that say intimidating voters is a state and federal crime, and those working at voting sites should “demonstrate courtesies towards those at the voting place, regardless of differences of opinion.”
We reached out to Ray to see if her version of events differed from Korn’s. After seemingly acknowledging something transpired by suggesting we speak to someone who was with her at the polls that day, Ray followed up to say that she’d been in touch with the State Board of Elections and told us they had not received any complaints.
“If an actual complaint is filed, please feel free to call me,” Ray added.
Judge Ray called and left a message after we sent her a picture of the stamped complaint. We have tried to reach her several times since missing that call without success.