RALEIGH, N.C. — It looks like voters will be heading back to the polls statewide to determine who will be the next state agriculture commissioner after a ruling by the State Board of Elections.
The Board of Elections has five members -- three Democrats and two Republicans. According to its rules, four members had to agree to order a new statewide election.
When Wednesday's vote went strictly along party lines, the three Democrats took a different approach. Instead of ordering a new election, they moved to simply amend an earlier order, which only required a simple majority.
Republican Steve Troxler said the board's latest decision is part of partisan politics.
"To me, it's a miscarriage of justice," Troxler said after the elections board meeting. "When you have been in this election process as long as I have, from the minute they started reporting until they started recounting the votes with me still being ahead and now wanting to throw out 3.3 million votes and go to a new statewide election, it's nuts."
Troxler leads Democratic incumbent Britt Cobb by 2,287 votes in results from the Nov. 2 election, but a machine error in Carteret County that eliminated 4,438 votes left the final result in doubt.
On Nov. 30, the board called for a special election limited to Carteret County to get a final statewide result, but a Wake County judge threw out the plan and told the board to come up with a new solution.
Troxler said he will appeal the latest decision by the state Board of Elections. In a written statement, Cobb said he is pleased with the board's ruling.
"I've said all along that it's the job of the Board of Elections and the courts to determine what the law requires and it's the candidates' job to obey. Now I look forward to a vigorous campaign and a spirited debate on the issues: protecting consumers, creating jobs, and providing experienced leadership for our state's largest industry," Cobb said.
The executive director of the state Democratic party also agreed with the board's ruling, saying it is important that every vote counts in the statewide election.
State elections officials said it would cost about $3.5 million to have a new election. The earliest it would be held would be mid-March. Officials also admit about 10 percent of the more than 3 million people who voted in November are likely to turn out for a special election.