Morrisville council race remains embroiled in controversy
Posted November 18, 2011
Updated November 19, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — A race for Morrisville Town Council could be headed to court after the Wake County Board of Elections decided Friday not to act on protests over disputed absentee ballots.
A recount in the race found that challenger Michael Schlink leads three-term incumbent Linda Lyons by two votes, 681-679.
The elections board heard protests over 11 absentee ballots that were disqualified earlier. Three of the ballots were illegally witnessed by Lyons, who could face misdemeanor charges, and the others were received after the deadline.
"We want people to vote. We want people to exercise that right as far as possible. But it has to comply with not only the statutes of North Carolina but also the directives of the State Board (of Elections)," said Aida Doss Havel, chairwoman of the county elections board.
Lyons witnessed five absentee ballots, and also tried to vote on Election Day after casting an absentee ballot herself. She told supporters that she didn't know the law regarding witnessing ballots, and she also reportedly told poll workers that she forgot she had already voted.
Attorney Michael Weisel, who represents one of the voters whose ballot was witnessed by Lyons, said the vote should have been counted.
"Why would a voter know that a candidate can't witness (a ballot)? The Wake County instructions don't say that. They say nothing. They say, 'Find a witness,'" Weisel said.
One of the voters whose ballot was deemed late argued that the law is vague on the deadline for absentee ballots, but Schlink's attorney said the law is clear, as are the instructions on the absentee ballot.
"This is so close. If the election is tainted by misconduct, then what confidence do the people of Morrisville have on how their elected representatives got there?" attorney Roger Knight said.
Weisel said he plans to appeal to the State Board of Elections, which could hear the case next week. If either side appeals, the next step would be the Wake County Superior Court.
Cherie Poucher, director of the Wake County Board of Elections, said she can't declare Schlink the winner of the race until the voter protests are settled.
"It could be a matter of weeks or months. We just don't know," Poucher said.