Some disputed Morrisville ballots might count
Posted December 22, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County elections officials will hold a hearing next month to determine whether to count eight absentee ballots in a tight race for Morrisville Town Council.
A recount in the race found that challenger Michael Schlink leads three-term incumbent Linda Lyons by two votes, 681-679.
Protests were filed over 11 absentee ballots that the elections board had disqualified. Three of the ballots were illegally witnessed by Lyons, who could face misdemeanor charges, and the others were received after the deadline.
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.
Wake County elections officials declined all of the protests, which were appealed to the State Board of Elections.
The state board on Thursday denied the protests on the three ballots witnessed by Lyons. Attorneys for the voters had argued that the ballots should be counted because the voters weren't aware of state law prohibiting candidates from acting as witnesses on absentee ballots.
"Voting is a fundamental right, and you are denying someone the right to vote if they had no knowledge of that violation," said Michael Weisel, one of the attorneys for the Morrisville voters.
The state board sent the other eight absentee ballots back to Wake County elections officials for more study.
Although the ballots were submitted after the 5 p.m. deadline on the day before the election, the board ruled, they came in within a three-day window after the election in which absentee ballots from military members are counted.
Four of the eight ballots were postmarked before the election, while the other four don't have a postmark.
"Whether there is a postmark or not a postmark on a ballot shouldn't have anything to do with whether the votes in fact get counted," Weisel said.
Wake County elections officials will contact the four voters whose absentee ballots weren't postmarked to see if they remember when they mailed their ballots, said Cheri Poucher, director of the Wake County Board of Elections.
After meeting in mid-January to review the ballots and applicable law, Poucher said, the county board should have a decision by the end of January on whether to count the disputed ballots.
"They really are charged with, when they take that oath of office, upholding and following all procedures and directives set out by the state board," she said of her board members.