RALEIGH, N.C. — When a machine malfunctioned in Carteret County, it lost nearly 4,500 votes that could have made the difference in the race for state agriculture commissioner. With just 2,600 votes separating the candidates, Democrat Britt Cobb could ask for a recount and a new election if the results do not change.
"He would be entitled to ask for and entitled to receive a new election if that vote total fell within the 4,438 votes," said John Wallace, Cobb's attorney.
Wallace said he would push for a statewide election, not just in Carteret County. However, Cobb's opponent, Republican Steve Troxler, disagrees. His attorney wants to give only the 4,500 Carteret County voters another chance to cast their ballots. If not, he wants to subpoena them.
"I think it's inappropriate to subpoena voters now to compel them to vote once again," Wallace said.
"We can identify who the voters were because they were each numbered," said Johnnie McLean, of the state Board of Elections.
State elections officials said it is possible to allow the Carteret voters to recast their ballots, but they do not know the best way to go about it.
"The state board would consider all of the evidence and make their determination on that if that's what it eventually comes down to," McLean said.
It would be the first time North Carolina has held a new election, but it would not be the first time the State Board has considered one. In 1990, there were problems with voting machines in Durham County. Beverly Lake asked for a new election after failing to win a seat on the State Supreme Court. The state board rejected the request.
If the state would have a special election, the earliest it would happen is 75 days, more than two months after it is ordered. Everyone would be elegible to vote.
There would be a new registration period, and absentee and early voting would be available. It would come at a cost to taxpayers of at least $3 million.