Local News

General Assembly May Decide Winner In Disputed State Races

Posted January 13, 2005

— Two months after the general election, the race for state superintendent and agriculture commissioner remain undecided. The democrats in both races have both referenced Article VI, Section 5 of the state constitution, which calls on the General Assembly to decide contested races.

Former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr now runs a nonprofit organization, the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law. The constitution carries weight, but he said the provision predates the State Board of Elections.

The board handles disputes while the courts handle the appeals. Orr said he sees the provision as a last resort.

"As a practical matter, if every contested election ended up in the General Assembly, you can only imagine the chaos that would result from something like that," he said.

Lost votes in Carteret County are holding up the agriculture commissioner race between Republican Steve Troxler and Democratic incumbent Britt Cobb while provisional ballots hold up the

superintendent race

. Bill Fletcher, Republican candidate for state superintendent, wants the courts to throw out 10,000 ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct.

Fletcher's challenger, June Atkinson, leads the race by 8,500 votes. Tossing the race into the Democrat-controlled Legislature is not an argument Fletcher wants to entertain.

"I can't imagine a more partisan way to solve a race than to send it to the General Assembly, where it's clear there is a partisan majority," Fletcher said.

The General Assembly has never decided a Council of State race. Attorneys for June Atkinson and Britt Cobb were not available for comment Thursday. The State Supreme Court will hear arguments in the state superintendent race Tuesday.


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